After all the dire warnings that President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv would lead the Middle East to erupt in violence, nothing happened. It turns out Arabs and Muslims do except reality after all.
After decades of threats intimidated Trump’s predecessors and other world leaders to pretend Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital or face violent consequences, it turned out the blackmailers were bluffing. Even the Palestinians couldn’t manage much fury during the three days of rage declared by Mahmoud Abbas. Sure, there were a few demonstrations, but most seemed to be orchestrated for the benefit of journalists who flocked to the area in hope of a conflagration. The demonstrations in Jerusalem were more severe after Israel installed metal detectors at the entrance of the Temple Mount than they were after the U.S. announcement.
The press has already moved onto other issues after the disappointing lack of bloodshed, but there should be a reckoning for all the supposed experts and officials who predicted an apocalypse. Because the Palestinian issue has grown to attract disproportionate attention from the media and certain countries and NGOs, there is a total misunderstanding of its relevance to people in the region. There may have been a time when the Palestinian cause served as a rallying point for Arabs and Muslims either because of their hatred of Jews, and belief Israel could be destroyed, or because focusing on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians distracted people from how they were being treated by their own governments. Today, however, is a different time.
First, while some people may still hate Jews and wish Israel would disappear, most have accepted that after 70 years Israel is here to stay. Apart from Iran and radical Muslim terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, no one is interested in waging war against Israel, if for no other reason than it is too strong to defeat.
Second, the countries in the region have more than their share of domestic problems and external threats to occupy their attention. Poverty, corruption, illiteracy and other social ills are rampant; Shiites and Sunnis continue to kill each other; Iran threatens the region; civil wars are being fought in Syria and Yemen; and cross border conflicts have embroiled Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf states.
Third, the Palestinians are widely despised in the region. It is no coincidence that Lebanon limits their activities, Syria has been murdering them and Kuwait expelled them after they sided with Saddam Hussein. For decades now, the Arab states have done little more than pay lip service to the Palestinian cause. They will vote with them at the UN, which costs nothing, but they have grown tired of financing their corrupt leaders and now provide a relative pittance that rarely fulfills their pledges.
Ironically, the people who care most about the Palestinians are probably Israelis, European liberals, American Jews and anti-Israel propagandists. They kvetched after Trump’s announcements but could do little else. They certainly were not going to the barricades over American recognition of Jerusalem.
It was also outrageous that the critics of Trump used the threat of upheaval as a rationale for condemning his decision. Instead of attacking the president for recognizing reality and correcting a longstanding injustice, why didn’t his detractors denounce Abbas for threatening violence? Instead of warning Trump of consequences, why weren’t they telling Abbas and others in the region that they would be held responsible if they instigated protests?
And why was Trump castigated for taking a step that Russian President Vladimir Putin took in April? When Russia recognized Jerusalem, no one condemned him for potentially setting off a powder keg.
Speaking of hypocrisy, why is it that Trump was expected to wait until the conflict was resolved before announcing the embassy move when other nations had no reservations about opening consulates in Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians prior to ending the conflict?
Now that the taboo has been broken and Jerusalem is recognized as Israel’s capital without causing the sky to fall, other nations should follow America’s example. As I’ve written elsewhere, this will do more for peace than any declarations or initiatives because it will disabuse the Palestinians of the delusion that they will get a state along the 67 borders with Jerusalem as their capital.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including the 2017 edition of Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, The Arab Lobby, and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.