What does it mean to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? What are the repercussions of announcing the US Embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? The answer to both questions: Everything. And nothing.
Jerusalem is made up of West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. In 1948, Jordan took the West Bank, annexing it in 1950 and losing it back to Israel in 1967. It cities included East Jerusalem. When Jordan took control, no Jews were allowed access to the Old City. Arab residents were given Jordanian citizenship, which they retained until Jordan renounced all claims in 1989. When Israel got the Old City back in 1967, along with the rest of the West Bank, access to the Old City was opened to all, it was agreed that the status quo would be maintained and the Waqf and the Mufti now oversee Al Aksa and Dome of the Rock.
What did or didn’t happen afterwards is what matters here. I like Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s recap of the history. With the exception of her incomplete explanation of how Jordan came into possession of East Jerusalem, she covers why official recognition might be an issue until final settlement lines, i.e., those from peace negotiations, are drawn.
Ehud Barak’s (too) generous offer made at Camp David in 2000, would give Palestinians some of the smaller villages but as far as Jerusalem was concerned, only authority, not sovereignty. The entirety of that offer, though, was said to give the Palestinians more of what they wanted than any other offer they would ever see…and Arafat turned it down. Ultimately, whether or not all of East Jerusalem is retained by Israel or not, Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and I honestly cannot foresee any peace agreement with Israel changing that.
Having said that, there is absolutely no reason for President Trump to take this step now, other than to fulfill a campaign promise. It tells the Palestinians that the Americans are taking sides before they even get back to the negotiating table. For a president who claims to want to broker the biggest deal of all time – to sabotage that very goal, makes no sense. It’s all the more puzzling because, as I understand, some progress has been made in getting the two sides to agree on taking steps that would benefit all. In signing a significant water agreement this summer, Trump’s envoy was able to demonstrate that America could be helpful. This week Trump set that back.
Also of note is that the State Department has already announced it would not change its policy; as before, consular reports of births abroad (like two of my kids have) and passports issued in Jerusalem will still not include Israel as its country.
So, this recognition…changed everything and changed nothing.
And it actually already existed. But hold on, what about the Embassy?
Back in 1995, both houses of Congress in a bipartisan vote passed an act recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and declaring that the Embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
But for decades, every six months like clockwork, the presidents sign a waiver deferring the move and its funding. I’ve read it’s because since they want to send a message that it isn’t Congress’ job to set foreign policy. I’ve also read, and this makes sense too, that they don’t want to make any waves in any negotiations. Trump signed it too. On the day he announced that it would be moved in six months.
So, he gave notice while making supporters happy he fulfilled a campaign promise. But it’s still in Tel Aviv, and as we’ve seen in the past, with Trump’s truth often being fluid, there is no reason to believe it will actually be moved, that is, until it actually is.
In the meantime, a man carrying a Palestinian flag threw a rock through the window of a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam, protests in the Arab world are breaking out, a 40 year old security guard in Jerusalem was stabbed in the heart by a Palestinian from the West Bank, a bus carrying Israeli students came under fire in the West Bank. This is just the beginning, as more violence directed towards Israeli and Jews takes place (and not towards the U.S. interestingly enough – ummm, can we say those what want any excuse will find it?).
If the Palestinians and the Americans were to have said the new Embassy would be in West Jerusalem, leaving room for one for the future Palestine to be built in East Jerusalem, that could’ve made for better feelings, But, no.
So now, Abbas won’t meet with Pence as previously planned, and though the Palestinian Authority is calling it just an “interruption” in the peace process, the White House is blaming them for walking away.
So again, nothing is changing and everything is changing.
If you think about it, nothing on the ground is different at this time, either with recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli’s capital or the location of our embassy.
But everything now has changed. More terror, more rage, more to be expected. See? Those that hate have found another excuse to escalate acts of hate. And those that proclaim peace while pursing hate have found another reason to continue doing so.
Oops, I guess nothing has changed after all.