From Jerusalem to Davos: Donald Trump’s revolution

Only 72 hours after Pence’s speech to the Knesset that professed America’s steadfast solidarity with Israel (“your fight is our fight… And this April – as the State of Israel celebrates the 70th anniversary of its birth – we will mark the day when the Jewish people answered that ancient question: can a country be born in a day, can a nation be born in a moment?”), Davos heralded a further step in the American proposal to confront the Middle East peace process ex novo, namely to abandon the useless route of dividing Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians.

It’s a political and cognitive revolution that seems to be picking up steam: while the international press was going on and on about American isolationism over the past hours, the Trump administration was actually taking ground-breaking steps in the realm of world politics where the Middle East has been a focal point now for several decades.

When Trump acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel on December 6, he established a starting point for any future negotiations, among the two protagonists and also in the attitude of all those who are or feel involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: from the contenders themselves to the Arab world as a whole, as well as Europe. Already the meetings between Netanyahu, Merkel, and Macron are going much better than before, the Israeli PM attests to enhanced understanding.

Trump said the following at Davos: we took Jerusalem off the negotiating table. How dare him? To recognize such a simple reality as the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital? And then he ventured to talk about wasted American aid to the Palestinians, who disrespectfully refused to meet with Vice President Pence, and how that money ends up sponsoring terrorism or instead, in the pockets of corrupt Hamas or PA officials. Scandal! But these too are facts, and everyone knows.

On Davos, the Palestinian’s response was again furious, but this didn’t dampen the American tones and the European and Arab hibernation on “two states for two people” was shaken by Trump’s new Middle East idea that puts the issue of Iran on the table without mediation and as the first issue.

The revision of the 2015 nuclear deal orchestrated by Obama and Europe seemed to be a blasphemy, but now there’s no important country that doesn’t say that the deal, yes, must be upheld while, yes, Iran must be stopped from developing ballistic missiles, curtailing its hegemonic terrorist designs throughout the Middle East, and violating human rights.

Both Macron and Merkel now think and even say that we’re not on the same page with Iran, and they repeat it aloud: it may therefore well be that the 120 days in which they have to revise the Iranian nuclear deal according to Trump’s requests won’t be spent in vain.

Certainly the worst enemy in relation to America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital after the Palestinians is the guardian of the mosques, King Abdullah II of Jordan. Along with Abu Mazen he had condemned Trump to exile from any negotiations. Now, after careful reflection, in Davos the King has changed position, insisting publicly that the only power that can mediate is America. Now the challenge for Trump, he said, is forcing the Israelis to give something really good to Abu Mazen in exchange for the recognition of Jerusalem.

What does this mean in practice? Abdullah won’t reveal it publicly, even though he has just met Pence. It now seems clear that the Americans can count on mediation with the Palestinians from the Saudis, Egyptians, and Abdullah himself.

The plan exists, the specifics are starting to circulate, Palestine would be a completely self-determined and independent state but only gradually would it come into possession of security forces, the request to give up territory beyond the 1967 borders could be 10 percent, the capital could be in the neighborhood of east Jerusalem and it surrounding areas; the right of return would be abandoned… So, Trump proposes a turn on Jerusalem, fighting terrorism, security, economic aid…and adopting a definitive position on Iran. Netanyahu spoke one by one with all heads of state at Davos, continuing in his diplomacy of new markets, security and technology; he congratulated Kagame of Rwanda, who became the chairman of the African Union, Africa is important for Israel as India, China, Japan. And afterward, on a plain to Moscow for a meeting with Putin. Diplomacy is at a turning point for Israel.

Times change and this example shows it: for the first time in history, the Council of Europe has included in a parliamentary motion the request that the PA, forever venerated, stop paying salaries to imprisoned terrorists, which amount to millions of euro. It’s true that the request was incorporated into a critical statement of Israeli policy, but keep in mind: Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Translation by Amy Rosenthal

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (January 28, 2018)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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