WASHINGTON, December 8, 2017: President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital came against the advice of Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of State Tillerson, CIA Director Pompeo, and all of our allies from the United Kingdom to Germany to Jordan to Saudi Arabia.
The only supporters of this reversal of U.S. policy are those who oppose a two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state. This small group includes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and one of Trump’s major financial supporters, Sheldon Adelson.
This is the same Sheldon Adelson who has said he regrets that he served in the U.S. Army and not the Israeli Army.
Emboldening anti-American Sentiment
It is not only Israel’s right-wing and it’s small but vocal American supporters who have gained from this action. ISIS and other Islamic fundamentalist groups will find it much easier to gain young recruits throughout the Muslim world. President Trump repeatedly tells us he wants to defeat terrorism. Now, he has emboldened those who stoke anti-American sentiment.
Barnett Rubin, a former senior State Department adviser, says of the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:
“For Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims this has the same effect that denial of Jewish claims to Jerusalem has for Jews. The move confirms the narrative that the U.S. Is at war with Islam and has no respect for Muslim and Arab perspectives.”
Robert Richer, former head of the CIA’s Middle Eastern Division, warned that this move will encourage extremists and other U.S. opponents in the region while driving young Palestinians into the hands of anti-American groups. He notes:
“This unilateral decision, without real consultation with the involved countries outside of Israel, will take away the hope of a Palestinian state and will again reinforce the notion that U.S. Interests in the region rest solely with Israel.”
Palestinians say that Trump’s decision was so biased toward Israel that he had irrevocably harmed his administration’s ability to be seen as an honest broker. Mr. Trump made no distinction between the western portion of the city and East Jerusalem. The Old City landmarks he cited, the Western Wall, the stations of the cross, and Al-Aqsa mosque, are all east of the 1967 line, in what every other country in the world considers occupied territory whose status is to be determined in a future agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
In another strange declaration, Donald Trump said that, despite rejecting the Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem, the U.S “Would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides.”
This also involves a complete reversal of U.S. policy, which has always been in full support of a two-state solution, said Daniel Kurtzer, a Princeton professor and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel under President George W. Bush.
“There’s really not much for Abbas (the Palestinian leader) to hang onto if he wanted to stay in the game with the U.S.,” Kurtzer says.
It is now 50 years that Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem and has constructed settlements housing approximately 700,000 Israelis in violation of international law. In August, Prime Minister Netanyahu attended an event celebrating the settlements deep in the West Bank. He said Israelis would never leave the area, which was meant to be a Palestinian state.
“This is the inheritance of our forefathers. This is our country. We came back here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the Land of Israel.” There will never be a Palestinian state while he holds office, Netanyahu declared.
Israel’s control over Palestinian land was a calculated political enterprise.
Many in the world think that the 1967 war was one in which Israel was resisting attack and occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in self-defense. In fact, it was Israel which launched the first strike against Egypt in 1967.
Menachem Begin later said, according to The New York Times,
“In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentration in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack them.”
Israel and the Golan Heights
Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Defense Minister at the time, also admitted years later that Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights was preceded by deliberate Israeli provocations motivated by a desire to conquer the land for settlement.
Israeli historian Ilan Pappe writes that,
“A diplomatic effort led by the U.S. was still in its early stages when Israel launched its attack on all its Arab neighbors on June 5, 1967. There was no intention in the Israeli cabinet of providing the necessary time to the peace brokers. This was a golden opportunity not to be missed…By June 11, Israel had become a mini-empire, controlling the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai, Peninsula. The whole of Israeli society was galvanized around the messianic project of ‘liberating’ the holy places of Judaism, with Jerusalem the jewel in the new crown of the new Greater Israel.”
In Pappe’s view, Israel’s leaders were never content with the 1948 borders, but were always planning to control all of Palestine:
“…the takeover of the West Bank in particular, with its ancient biblical sites, was a Zionist aim even before 1948, and it fitted the logic of the Zionist project as a whole. This logic can be seen as the wish to take over as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians as possible.”
Many voices in Israel are critical of the current government and its abandonment of a two-state solution. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak declares:
“In its more than three years in power, this government has been irrational, bordering on messianic. It is now increasingly clear where it is headed: creeping annexation of the West Bank aimed at precluding any permanent separation from the Palestinians. This ‘one-state solution’ that the government is moving toward is no solution at all. It will inevitably turn Israel into a state that is either not Jewish of not democratic…mired in permanent violence . This prospect is an existential danger to the entire Zionist project.”
Jared Kushner, Jerusalem, and Middle East Peace
Ironically, Donald Trump has put his son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge of negotiating Middle East peace. But Kushner, with no diplomatic experience whatever, is hardly a disinterested party. His own conflicts of interest should disqualify him. In his government filings, he did not disclose his position as a director of a family foundation that funded projects in West Bank settlements.
Kushner’s position as co-director of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Foundation from 2006 to 2015, when the foundation donated at least $38,000 to the building of a Jewish seminary in the West Bank settlement of Beit El and an additional $20,000 to institutions in other settlements.
He did not report this in filings with the Office of Government Ethics.
This revelation came days after reports that Kushner attempted to stop a vote on an anti-settlement U.N. Resolution that passed during the time he served on the Trump transition team.
One of the conversations former national security adviser Michael Flynn lied about to the FBI concerned asking the then-Russian ambassador to stop the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements as a flagrant violation of international law. Russia did not agree to delay or defeat the U.N. Resolution, but, in fact, voted for it.
The resolution passed 14-0, with the U.S. abstaining. It is reported that Flynn called the Russian ambassador at the request of Jared Kushner.
Ending the Jewish democratic state
Donald Trump may think he is helping Israel by embracing its current government which rejects the creation of a Palestinian state and is moving toward annexing the occupied territories. In reality, the pursuit of such policies would be the end of Israel as either a Jewish or democratic state. His policy on Jerusalem—opposed even by leaders in his own administration is welcomed only by those who reject a peaceful resolution of this longstanding conflict.
Benjamin Netanyahu and Sheldon Adelson may be pleased, but they are part of a small and isolated group which Donald Trump has seen fit to join.