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Only Israel Can Preserve Jerusalem as a Holy City for Three Faiths

Yesterday, Dore Gold, the former Israeli ambassador to the UN, testified at a congressional hearing about the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. To Gold, the question of the embassy is part of a larger issue: “the need for Western recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.” The absence of such recognition, he argues, “helps fuel the dangerous fantasy, popular in the Middle East, that Israel is impermanent and illegitimate.” But there is an additional reason the West should ensure that Jerusalem remains in Israel’s hands:

[O]nly a free and democratic Israel will protect the holy sites of all the great faiths in Jerusalem. Let me stress, to the extent that the U.S. reinforces Israel’s standing in Jerusalem, it is reinforcing core American and Western values of pluralism, peace, and mutual respect—and it is reinforcing the position of the only international actor that will protect Jerusalem’s holy sites. . . .

UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, which endorsed the partition of Mandatory Palestine, . . . called for establishing an international entity around Jerusalem, [that] would be governed by the United Nations itself. On May 15, 1948, when Israel declared its independence, invading Arab armies placed Jerusalem under siege. . . . Israel’s foreign minister, Moshe Sharett, reported to the UN that “ancient Jewish synagogues are being destroyed one after the other as a result of Arab artillery fire.” Those artillery shells hit churches and even the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. The mounting attacks led to a mass exodus of the Jewish population of the Old City—what today would be called “ethnic cleansing.” What did the UN do? Nothing.

Decades later, the 1995 interim agreement, an extension of the Oslo Accords, gave the Palestinian Authority some control over Muslim holy sites. Much like the idea of a UN-administered Jerusalem, this, too, proved disastrous:

It the aftermath of the failure of the Camp David summit in July 2000, the PLO launched what became known as the second intifada. Religious sites were specifically targeted. In Bethlehem, Fatah operatives and Palestinian security services assaulted Rachel’s tomb in December 2000. Less than two years later, in April 2002, thirteen armed Palestinians from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah Tanzim forcibly entered the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem—the birthplace of Jesus and one of the holiest sites for Christianity.

The gunmen took the Christian clergy hostage, looted church valuables, and desecrated Bibles. Another repeated target for attack was Joseph’s tomb in Nablus, the protection of which was undertaken by the Palestinians in [1995]. Gunmen from Fatah and Hamas took part in the ransacking of the site in October 2000. The site came under attack again as Palestinians torched Joseph’s tomb in October 2015 and set it on fire.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Jerusalem, Second Intifada, US-Israel relations

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen