Daniel Markind
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President Morales’s Christmas present: Hope for peace

It's not the first time Guatemala has actively supported the Jewish state
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (L) in Jerusalem on November 29, 2016. (Haim Zach / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (L) in Jerusalem on November 29, 2016. (Haim Zach / GPO)

On Christmas Eve, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales gave the world, and all who love peace, one of the greatest Christmas presents imaginable. President Morales announced that he was following American President Donald Trump’s lead and moving the Guatemalan Embassy to Jerusalem.

As with President Trump, President Morales did not set a timetable for the move. That, however, is purely secondary. By making this decision, President Morales is stating that Guatemalan foreign policy, like American, will not be dictated by threats from the Arab and Islamic rejectionist front.

There is a special historical significance to President Morales’s actions. On November 29, 1947, when the UN voted to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, the UN member countries did not vote in alphabetical order starting with “A.” Instead, what the UN did was put the names of all of the member countries in a hat, then pick one out, start with that country and go in alphabetical order from there.

By sheer dumb luck, the country picked out of the hat, and the very first country to vote for the creation of the modern State of Israel, was Guatemala. Now, exactly 70 years later, Guatemala is the first country to strike a real blow for both realism and Middle East peace by moving along with the United States. Don’t be surprised if other countries soon follow (possibly the Czech Republic next).

While he may act like a buffoon, and it’s hard to stomach his narcissism and thin skin, President Trump has a much firmer grasp on Middle Eastern reality than did President Obama and does most of the American foreign policy establishment. Obama, John Kerry, Madeline Albright and so many others nearly unanimously panned Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Following President Trump’s announcement, former US diplomat and current director of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haas stated that “..the question you have to ask is: Does it advance diplomatic prospects to single (the Jerusalem issue) out now, unilaterally? I don’t see potential upsides. I do see potential downsides.”

That such an esteemed figure as Mr. Haas could not see upsides shows that the foreign policy establishment sometimes can’t see much at all. Mr. Haas and his foreign policy gurus are simply flat wrong. The truth is that there was no upside in letting the situation linger. All that does is continue to tell those who reject any possibility of peace with Israel that they can control American actions.

For peace to be reached, there has to be room for all sides to maneuver. Further, all sides have to be convinced that America, and through its leadership much of the world, will act in our own interests and be consistent with our own respective values. So long as the rejectionists could control the actions of American presidents of both parties (Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama) regarding Jerusalem, those on the Arab side who wanted peace and territorial compromise had no such room. Now, President Trump has shown that he will move American policy to make it consistent with American law — in this case the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. In effect, he told the Arab and Islamic world that the train is leaving. Either climb aboard or risk being left behind.

President Morales reinforces that decision. Should other nations follow, not only will it expose the fallacy of how “isolated” America is (especially when you consider that in April, Russia announced that it was recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital), it will pressure the Palestinians into getting real about the prospects of accepting full recognition on Israel, territorial compromise and true Israeli-Palestinian peace. Without that external stimulus, there is no hope at this time.

Watch carefully what happens in the next few weeks. If other nations, and especially large ones like Canada, Poland, Kenya and Australia, follow President Morales’s lead, the pressure on the Palestinians will grow. It also will grow on countries like the United Kingdom, France and Germany, all of whom somehow decided that it was their right at the UN to decide for the United States where our embassy should be. Those countries will look foolish in their vote, and their continued obsequiousness toward Palestinian territorial demands will look the same.

As Iran’s threat metastasizes over the Middle East and the world, the conditions finally will ripen for a new peace initiative. Sunni Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt need Israel now more than they need to perpetuate the Palestinian’s dream of Israel’s eradication. With an American administration that will not countenance Palestinian inertia in power, and with a world robbing the rejectionists of their power, there truly may be hope for peace in the near future.

Merry Christmas, President Morales. You have given the world its best hope for peace in a long time.

Feliz Navidad.

About the Author
Daniel B, Markind is an attorney based in Philadelphia specializing in real estate, commercial, energy and aviation law. He is the former Chair of the National Legal Committee of the Jewish National Fund of America as well as being a former member of the National Executive Board and the National Chair of the JNF National Future Leadership. He writes frequently on Middle Eastern and energy issues. Mr. Markind lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and children.
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