The British Foreign Office Uses a Royal Visit to Israel to Stir Ill Will

On June 25, Prince William will arrive in Israel for the first-ever official visit to the country by a member of the House of Windsor, during which he will pay his respects at the grave of his great-grandmother, who is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The official itinerary, released by the UK’s notoriously anti-Israel Foreign Office, locates this particular stop in “Occupied Palestinian territories.” Asked about that phrase by an Israeli journalist, a Foreign Office spokesperson clarified that “east Jerusalem is not Israeli territory.” Elliott Abrams comments:

It has long been assumed that the royals themselves were not refusing to visit [the Jewish state] but were, as is constitutionally required in the UK, following the advice of . . . the Foreign Office. . . . But leave it to the Foreign Office to try to stir ill will over the visit.

As former holders of the Palestine Mandate, the British above all others should know that the Old City of Jerusalem was never “Palestinian territory.” It was Jordanian territory until 1967 and has never been under Palestinian sovereignty for a single day. The British might have said the prince was visiting “Jerusalem” without saying more. To call a visit to the Old City instead a visit to “Occupied Palestinian territory” is deeply and probably intentionally offensive—and plain wrong. It is in fact one thing to say that the UK does not regard eastern Jerusalem as settled Israeli territory and that its fate will be decided in peace negotiations, and quite another to call it “occupied Palestinian territory.”

This episode has made me agree entirely with David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, that the United States should stop using the term “occupied territory” to describe any part of Jerusalem or the West Bank. Call it “disputed territory,” which it certainly is, or say “east Jerusalem and the West Bank, which Palestinians claim as part of an eventual Palestinian state.” Legally, it is hard to see how land that was once Ottoman, then governed by Britain under a League of Nations mandate, then Jordanian, can be “occupied Palestinian territory” anyway.

The visit by Prince William has been damaged by the Foreign Office, but it is still a step forward after 70 years of refusals to make an official visit at all. One hopes that during the prince’s visit to Israel, someone . . . will tell him what was the fate of east Jerusalem before Israel conquered it in 1967: no access at all for Jews, no protection for Jewish holy sites, [and] vast destruction of Jewish holy and historic locations.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: House of Windsor, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Prince William, United Kingdom

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood