Explaining the Fracas over President Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement

Dec. 11 2017

The White House’s official statement last week acknowledging the location of Israel’s capital unleashed a torrent of indignant reactions: from Palestinian politicians (“President Trump . . . made the biggest mistake of his life”), to European politicians (a “catastrophe,” according to the Swedish foreign minister, shortly before a group of thugs firebombed a synagogue in her country), and even from U.S. Democratic congressmen who had voted for resolutions calling for the president to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem. Elliott Abrams, praising what he calls “a victory for common sense as well as for history,” analyzes the fuss:

So what explains the ridiculous overreaction? For someone like [the Democratic congresswoman Nancy] Pelosi, there’s a simple rule: never give Donald Trump credit for anything, period. For the Europeans, hatred of Trump combines with longstanding anti-Israel bias, especially in the foreign ministries. The many phony statements of regret and copious crocodile tears about possible forthcoming violence broadcast the clear hope that there would be plenty of rioting, just to prove Trump wrong. For Arab regimes, fearful of public sentiment that is always pro-Palestinian and often propelled by simple hatred of Jews, the path of least resistance and greatest safety was to denounce Trump’s move.

There will be violence if Arab rulers want violence, and very little if they want to stop it. The Palestinian Authority itself is the main exhibit here. It should be held responsible for violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank because its overreaction and its deliberate mischaracterizations of what Trump has done will fuel violence. When the PA closes schools—as it did the day following Trump’s remarks—so students can be free to riot, it is encouraging violence. . . .

What is the proper American response? To bow to threats of violence or to do what President Trump did and move forward? After all, when threats of violence and acts of violence are seen to change U.S. policy, there will be more of them. If, instead, they achieve nothing, there will be fewer of them. . . .

There is one additional reaction to Trump’s move that’s worth considering, even if it is silent and invisible. It is the reaction of leaders all around the world who will now take Trump’s promises more seriously. . . .So when next he makes a pledge or promise or threat, don’t you think Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin or Ali Khamenei will think twice before dismissing it? Seems logical.

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More about: Democrats, Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Palestinians, US-Israel relations

 

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East