Belief is widespread in the Arab world that Jews have no claim—historical, political, or moral—to the city of Jerusalem, writes Haisam Hassanein, an Arab-American born in the Middle East. When Western leaders effectively pay lip service to that belief by refusing to recognize the city as Israel’s capital, they encourage the delusion that the Jewish state might vacate it entirely in a future peace deal. Thus, Hassanein contends, the longstanding U.S. policy of ambiguity has made the acceptance of such a deal less likely:
Based on my personal experience, I think U.S. policymakers over many years have been irrational, even deluded, to think that millions of Arabs—let alone Palestinians—will accept a peace settlement acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. The fact is, insisting upon this up front, laying this down as essentially non-negotiable, is the only chance the idea will ever get through their heads. . . .
We have heard all the talk about coming violence [that might occur] if and when the United States acknowledges Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—despite the fact that the U.S. Congress has repeatedly declared this to be the case.
The coming weeks and months will prove those warnings to have been overblown. Yes, there [has been] outrage and protests in some countries. But Arab governments criminalize free speech and the right to assemble. Any protests, violence, and rioting are likely to be staged or permitted by Arab governments to blackmail the U.S. policy community into following their views, which unfortunately previous U.S. administrations have tolerated. . . . Those who do protest [are] driven by a political agenda that denies Israel’s right to exist outright and are fundamentally hostile to the United States. . . .
Acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital just may be the necessary breath of fresh air we need: it will settle this issue, and if they want and need a state, Palestinians will have to move on to issues that truly deserve and demand negotiations.