No Free Lunch — Trump’s Gift to Israel

Tom Friedman, true to his populistic style, neglected to address an important aspect of the Trump Jerusalem declaration (“Trump, Israel, and the Art of the Giveaway,” The New York Times, 12/9/17). Perhaps an unintended consequence that Mr. Trump either knowingly ignored or it is more likely that in his burning desire to make good on an ill-conceived campaign promise it never occurred to him or to his advisers.

Trump’s declaration clearly applies to the entire municipal district of Jerusalem, including all of the neighborhoods that are currently included under what is known as the City of Jerusalem. Some of these boroughs are located in East Jerusalem, populated mostly by Palestinians and were annexed by Israel subsequent to the Six Day War.

To be sure, Trump included in his speech some qualifying statements that left the final municipal boundaries as well as jurisdiction to be decided upon reaching an agreement that satisfies all parties, including the Palestinians.  However, taken at its face value it seems that Trump aimed at his base and at Israeli audience.

I believe that Jerusalem is the only city qualifies to be the capital of the State of Israel. However, given the circumstances that prevail over the past many centuries as well as the fact that the Israeli state administrative offices are located within West Jerusalem, this statement applies to West Jerusalem but with one exception. The Old City within the walls should remain under Israeli sovereignty in accordance with the current status quo.

Prime Minister Netanyahu wasted no time and in a video clip he elevated Trump’s declaration to an historic status, nothing less in its importance than the Balfour Declaration issued by Lord Balfour one hundred years ago. Indeed, Trump’s declaration is an historic event but unlike the famed Balfour Declaration, its consequences could prove to be devastating to Israel.

Upon annexation, Israel granted the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem a status of “permanent residency“, something akin to the Green Card in the US.  As such, the Palestinians were granted access to municipal services and to some social services administered by the government of Israel such as “Bituach Leumi” (social security). However, the annexed Palestinian population is denied Israeli citizenship and thus are not eligible to vote for the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, and have no parliamentary representation or say regarding any legislation enacted, even regarding laws that are specifically applicable to their city.  Moreover, under an Israeli government decision, the status of “permanent residency” granted to the Palestinians does not lead to citizenship. Palestinian holders of Israeli ID Cards are not eligible to apply for Israeli citizenship.

Trump laid a trap to Israel that, in my view, will exact a price, vacating the assertion by Tom Friedman that the Trump declaration is a free Christmas giveaway. The trap is named “Apartheid”. Now it is clear to all to see that the Israeli government practices apartheid sanctioned by its policies and actions. Regardless of the weak qualifiers contained in Trump’s speech, Jerusalem is now being recognized de-facto by this US administration as part and parcel of the State of Israel, subject to its full sovereignty.  In other words, the US recognize the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem.

As such one must assume that all of Jerusalem’s population are subject to Israeli sovereignty. Indeed, this is the current reality. But those who are not eligible to obtain Israeli citizenship under Israeli law are now faced with a new reality.

They are considered, at least by the US under this administration, as living in a city that is included fully within Israeli sovereignty but are denied certain civic rights that are inherent in a citizenship status. This, using Mr. Trump’s own words, is nothing less than state-sanctioned apartheid. Plain and simple. Not to mention that the Palestinian neighborhoods are subject to ongoing overt discrimination that is evidenced in the disproportionate appropriation of funds and municipal services as compared to the Jewish sections.

There will come a day when the western democracies will be compelled to take action just the same as they confronted the South African apartheid. Israel will be faced with a reality that no one in its current government is willing to consider possible. Alas, the day of that reality will come for sure. Israel will pay a price for Trump’s giveaway. There are no free lunches.

About the Author
Arie, a retired consulting engineer, had been born in Israel, served in the IDF and is a resident of Boston since 1978. lifelong interests include history of Israel (including the formerly Palestine) and US/Israel relations. Other interests include studies in philosophy and theology.