Love him or hate him, President Trump has shown the balls to do what every President since Nixon have failed to do- break a significant quagmire regarding peace between the Palestinians and Israel. To be sure, there are many issues that need to be resolved- boundaries, the right of return, compensation for confiscated land and property, and the often overlooked water rights. Still, the status of Jerusalem remained one of the major sticking points in those peace efforts.
Writing for The Hill, noted legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, laid out the historical parameters of the controversy. While a British protectorate, it was after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 that the controversy over Jerusalem began. The West Bank had been set aside by the UN for an Arab state. In 1948, reacting to the establishment of the state of Israel, Arab forces mainly under the command of Jordan invaded and occupied East Jerusalem which had traditionally been the Jewish Quarter of the city. Prior to this Jordanian occupation, Jews were free to visit and pray at the Western Wall, attend classes at Hebrew University and receive medical treatment at Hadassah Hospital. Jews lived and prayed for centuries in this area before 1948.
While today the Left portrays Israeli actions as ethnic cleansing, if not genocide, they leave out a few inconvenient facts in their revisionist history. For example, from 1948 to 1967 while Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Jewish schools, homes and places of worship were systematically destroyed. Headstones at Jewish cemeteries were reworked to provide backstops for urinals. And the UN? Not a single declaration or resolution condemning these actions.
In the 1967 War, Israeli forces captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, thus reuniting the city. While under Arab control, Jews were denied access to some of their holiest sites. Although under watchful armed guard, under Israeli control, the three major religions which find profound importance in Jerusalem have largely been allowed peaceful access to their holiest sites. After the 1967 War, the United States and the UN refused to recognize Israel’s territorial victories.
This past December, the Obama administration abstained from a UN Security Council vote and thus allowed a resolution to pass that stated that lands captured in 1967- including those in Jerusalem- were not part of Israel. Trump’s decision undoes this act in startling terms.
Most of the arguments against US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital- a de facto fact of political life- are usually predicated upon the “poor, poor Palestinian” line of thought. One article talks about the “separate but unequal” treatment of the Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem. The article decries the poverty rate and squalid, overcrowded living conditions in certain Palestinian areas of Jerusalem. This may not be a fact attributable to Israeli policies as much as it may be attributable to the Palestinians themselves. After all, in areas they actually control- Gaza and certain other areas- there is a high poverty and illiteracy rate and over-crowded living conditions. It does not seem to make a difference whether the leadership is Israeli or Palestinian.
That is because the Palestinians have proven themselves to be absolutely rotten rulers of themselves. They have proven themselves unworthy of having their own nation let alone control over part of a city with such religious significance as Jerusalem. The proof is in the numbers. You won’t see too many Israelis crossing into Gaza in search of jobs, but you will find scores of Palestinians crossing into Israel proper for jobs. Even many Arab neighbors merely tolerate, but do not embrace the Palestinians within their borders. Their support of the Palestinians is simply a credibility point in the Arab world, but pragmatically amounts to little.
Most of the hand-wringing about Trump’s move seems to be predicated on appeasement of violent Palestinian reactions. One should rue the day when US foreign policy- whether you agree or disagree with it- is dictated by the possible terrorist violence of any actor. These articles talk about 50-70 years of US foreign policy without once considering that perhaps 50-70 years of that policy was flawed. And if not flawed, had indirectly led to the Mideast peace quagmire that exists today.
Perhaps the only other viable option to Jerusalem being the capital of Israel was or is to make it an “international city.” That was the original plan, but armistice agreements made that all but impossible. Regardless, if we were to resort to that plan, that would require an international force to administer the city and allow equal access for all religions. The United Nations has proven itself woefully incapable of such a mission. Palestinian terrorists don’t care about white helmets with “UN” emblazoned in blue on it.
This move by Trump is long overdue and the right decision. While many may denounce the decision- basically, the entire world minus a few actors- this decision has probably done more to advance the goal of Middle East peace than any of the plethora of UN resolutions from the past. Thus, to the entire world the words of an ancient Persian poet suffices: “This, too, shall pass.” So get over it and move on. No one is telling you to move your embassies.