U.S. em­bassy move won’t help peace process

Ottawa Citizen - - OPINION - AN­DREW COHEN

The split-screen im­ages from Gaza and Jerusalem on Mon­day were surely painted by Sal­vador Dali. Only a clas­sic sur­re­al­ist could ren­der this por­trait of ab­sur­dity.

In Gaza, the first of two days of mass protests set to cul­mi­nate Tues­day, 58 were killed and hun­dreds in­jured. Pro­test­ers hurled rocks, burned car tires and sent flam­ing kites aloft.

When they charged the fence, the Is­raeli sol­diers fired tear gas, then bul­lets. It was the worst vi­o­lence in Gaza since the war in 2014, with more ex­pected this week.

In Jerusalem, a del­e­ga­tion of Amer­i­cans joined Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu to open the em­bassy of the United States, which has been moved in name from Tel Aviv. The build­ing isn’t new and the am­bas­sador will not work there, but this is about show­man­ship and sym­bol­ism.

The del­e­ga­tion lis­tened to Ne­tanyahu talk peace. It in­cluded Ivanka Trump and the jumped-up Jared Kush­ner, whom Don­ald Trump promised would de­liver peace for the ages.

With every bul­let in Gaza and every word in Jerusalem, the con­tra­dic­tion is more ex­quis­ite. Th­ese two im­ages — the storm­ing of the fence and the open­ing of the em­bassy — are lu­nacy it­self. But it’s even worse than that.

Ne­tanyahu, a greater syco­phant than Mike Pence, could not re­sist li­on­iz­ing Trump for mov­ing the em­bassy. Bibi has learned how to se­duce Trump through flat­tery and guile; he showed that re­cently in his strange per­for­mance on Iran, in English, on Is­raeli tele­vi­sion.

Ne­tanyahu is hav­ing his mo­ment. First Iran, then the em­bassy. He thinks both will bring peace. More likely they will bring war.

In­deed, an em­bold­ened Trump, hav­ing purged mod­er­ates from his cir­cle, thinks his moves in Jerusalem will have no con­se­quences. They have. Mov­ing the em­bassy to Jerusalem has sent thou­sands into the street and killed Pales­tini­ans des­per­ate with their lives in Gaza. While they didn’t need Mon­day’s cer­e­mony to demon­strate, ev­ery­one knew it was a provo­ca­tion.

It was also strange. There were Jared and Ivanka, who are so­cial pari­ahs in Wash­ing­ton. For all the talk of mod­er­at­ing Trump, they have noth­ing to show for 18 months of their hu­mil­i­a­tion. As for Kush­ner’s peace ini­tia­tive, it is now a punch line for late-night co­me­di­ans.

There were the two Chris­tian cler­gy­men open­ing and clos­ing the cer­e­mony. Chris­tians who love the Jews too much worry Jews, but this pair is re­ally fright­en­ing. One has said in the past that it was God’s plan to have Hitler kill the Jews; the other has said that the Jews are go­ing to hell. Nei­ther seems to like Mus­lims. Just the peo­ple you want at your son’s bar mitz­vah.

The deeper ab­sur­dity is the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s be­lief that its po­si­tion helps peace. Mov­ing the em­bassy to Jerusalem will do noth­ing to ad­vance the two-state so­lu­tion. What it does most is shat­ter any pre­tence of Amer­i­can open­mind­ed­ness to act as me­di­a­tor, as it has in the past.

While the United States looks the other way, Is­rael does what it likes to the Pales­tini­ans, which isn’t to say that the lead­ers of Ha­mas are not vile. It means Is­rael can go on build­ing set­tle­ments in the West Bank.

Canada wisely re­fused to at­tend the cer­e­mony. We join the rest of the world — and every one of Amer­ica’s al­lies — in con­demn­ing the move as a strate­gic mis­take.

This did not sit well with Vivian Ber­covici, Canada’s for­mer am­bas­sador to Is­rael, ap­pointed by Stephen Harper. She says that Canada’s po­si­tion, as stated by our Marc-An­dré Blan­chard, Canada’s am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, is “ab­surdly and wor­ry­ingly dis­so­ci­ated from re­al­ity.”

She just can­not un­der­stand, our in­cred­u­lous Vivian, why Canada wants a re­turn to the sta­tus quo ante.

It is why, for­tu­nately, she was fired as am­bas­sador by the Lib­er­als. She was a shill for the Likud, rep­re­sent­ing Is­rael to Canada, badly.

On Is­rael’s 70th an­niver­sary, Gaza is burn­ing, Ne­tanyahu is un­der crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, democ­racy in Is­rael is erod­ing.

An apartheid state looms as a de­mo­graphic bomb ticks.

But to Ber­covici, Trump and com­pany, peace is com­ing. The Mes­siah, too. Sur­real. An­drew Cohen is a colum­nist, pro­fes­sor and au­thor of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 That Made His­tory.


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