No point protest­ing Trump’s Jerusalem promise

Waterloo Region Record - - EDITORIALS & COMMENT - Gwynne Dyer Gwynne Dyer is an in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist whose ar­ti­cles are pub­lished in 45 coun­tries.

“All of us are say­ing: ‘Hey, United States, we don’t think this is a very good idea,’” said Jor­dan’s King Ab­dul­lah II in 2002, when it be­came clear that pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush was go­ing to in­vade Iraq. But Bush didn’t lis­ten, and it turned out to be an ex­tremely bad idea.

This time, with Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump an­nounc­ing that the United States will rec­og­nize Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal and move the U.S. em­bassy there, King Ab­dul­lah sim­ply sounded re­signed: “The adop­tion of this res­o­lu­tion will have se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions for se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity in the Mid­dle East.”

He knows there’s no point in protest­ing, even if it ends up mean­ing that Jor­dan has to break diplo­matic re­la­tions with Is­rael. Trump is sim­ply keep­ing a cam­paign promise he made in or­der to win the votes of Amer­i­can Jews and evan­gel­i­cals, and he nei­ther knows nor cares about the im­pli­ca­tions of his de­ci­sion for the Mid­dle East.

Nei­ther does he care that he is aban­don­ing an Amer­i­can policy that has en­dured for seven decades and is still ob­served by ev­ery other coun­try with an em­bassy in Is­rael. They are all down on the coast, in Tel Aviv, be­cause the fi­nal sta­tus of Jerusalem in in­ter­na­tional law is still to be de­ter­mined.

It’s still up in the air be­cause the 1947 United Na­tions res­o­lu­tion that rec­om­mended the cre­ation of in­de­pen­dent Jewish and Arab states in Pales­tine also put Jerusalem un­der a sep­a­rate Spe­cial In­ter­na­tional Regime, since it is sa­cred to Jews, Chris­tians and Muslims alike.

That never hap­pened, be­cause the UN res­o­lu­tion triggered a war that left Jerusalem di­vided be­tween Is­rael and what re­mained of Arab Pales­tine (all of which was promptly an­nexed by Jor­dan and Egypt). And since the Old City, the heart of Jerusalem, was now part of Jor­dan and ex­clu­sively Arab in pop­u­la­tion, all the em­bassies stayed in Tel Aviv.

In the 1967 war, Is­rael con­quered the east­ern, Arab-ma­jor­ity part of Jerusalem (and all the rest of Pales­tine, too), and in 1980 it de­clared that the en­tire ‘re­united’ city would be Is­rael’s eter­nal cap­i­tal. The em­bassies still didn’t move, how­ever, be­cause Is­rael had no more right to an­nex East Jerusalem in 1980 than Jor­dan did in 1948. In­ter­na­tional law no longer al­lows bor­ders to be moved by force.

Noth­ing has changed since then. There are 88 for­eign em­bassies in Tel Aviv, and not one in Jerusalem. This is in­con­ve­nient, since most Is­raeli gov­ern­ment of­fices are up in Jerusalem, but diplo­mats and for­eign min­istries gen­er­ally take in­ter­na­tional law quite se­ri­ously. They’d gladly move if Jerusalem were in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal, but it is not.

This view of things is en­shrined in the Oslo ac­cords of 1993, a U.S.-spon­sored pact that has de­fined the Arab-Is­raeli ‘peace process’ for the past quar­ter-cen­tury. It leaves the fi­nal sta­tus of Jerusalem to be de­cided by ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the two par­ties — al­though, sig­nif­i­cantly, Is­rael did not can­cel its 1980 an­nex­a­tion of Arab Jerusalem when it signed the ac­cord.

Now, in fact, every­body knows that Is­rael has no in­ten­tion of ever giv­ing up Jerusalem as its cap­i­tal, and that it is too strong for any com­bi­na­tion of Arab coun­tries to force it to do so.

Every­body re­al­izes (or should re­al­ize) that the ‘peace process’ has ac­tu­ally been dead for at least a decade, and that there is cur­rently no pos­si­bil­ity of res­ur­rect­ing it. So this whole fuss is just about sym­bol­ism — but sym­bols mat­ters.

Every­body goes on pre­tend­ing that there is a ‘peace process,’ just as they pre­tend that the sta­tus of Jerusalem is still un­set­tled and that the United States is neu­tral be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans, be­cause these fic­tions al­low the Arabs, and es­pe­cially the Pales­tini­ans, to pre­tend they have not lost the strug­gle de­ci­sively. But they have, at least for this gen­er­a­tion.

What Trump is do­ing now, for no bet­ter rea­son than to keep some Amer­i­can vot­ers happy, is rub­bing the Arabs’ noses in their de­feat. Be­ing nor­mal hu­man be­ings, they will re­spond by re­open­ing the strug­gle — not to the point where they risk be­ing de­stroyed by Is­rael, but at least enough to save face and do a lot of dam­age.

Some Arab coun­tries that have diplo­matic re­la­tions with Is­rael (and even some other Mus­lim coun­tries) will feel com­pelled to down­grade them or cut ties com­pletely. Jor­dan and Egypt, which ac­tu­ally have peace treaties with Is­rael, may be forced to re­con­sider them. The Pales­tini­ans may feel obliged to launch a third in­te­fadeh, just to show that some­how they are still in the game. It won’t be Ar­maged­don, but it could get quite ugly.

There is one im­por­tant group of pro-Trump vot­ers, how­ever, who would be de­lighted if it did turn into a real war: white evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians, or at least the ‘dis­pen­sa­tion­al­ists’ among them. Ar­maged­don is what the Bi­ble proph­e­sies, in their read­ing of it, and they ea­gerly await the prophecy’s ful­fil­ment. Even if it comes at the hand of a morally-chal­lenged pres­i­dent.

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