Tags: trump | embassy | israel | golan heights | gaza

After Embassy Move, What's Next for Israel's Disputed Territories?

After Embassy Move, What's Next for Israel's Disputed Territories?
A picture taken on December 6, 2017, shows a giant U.S. flag screened alongside Israel's national flag by the Jerusalem municipality on the walls of the old city. U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 6, 2017, and kicked off the process of relocating the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

By Friday, 08 December 2017 10:55 AM Current | Bio | Archive

President Donald Trump righted an American foreign policy wrong this week with the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. To some, this recognition was as evident as the sky is blue or the world is round. To others, they are color blind or flat-earth truthers.

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It was 3,000 years ago, and became it again in 1948 following the conclusion of the Israeli War for Independence, when the Jewish residents of Eretz Israel (“The Land of Israel”) successfully defended their land against the invading armies of seven neighboring countries.

This was a war that could have been avoided if only the Arab residents of the British Palestinian Mandate and international Arab leaders accepted the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan that sought to create two lands for two people — with Jerusalem having an international custodianship. The Jewish population accepted the plan. The Arab community rejected it.

The 1947 Plan was never realized. 70 years have passed. Instead of the diplomatic path to statehood and two lands for two people being put into motion, 6,000 Jewish lives were lost and countless more Arab lives were lost due to the war. But the avoidable war was fought and the results were the results: Israel won her defensive battle to exist. The Jewish people of Eretz Israel won their defensive battle to live with self-determination.

Following the War of Independence, Jerusalem was a territorial divided city with the Old City (“East Jerusalem” to some) being illegally occupied by the Jordanians and the remainder of the city being controlled by Israel (“West Jerusalem” to some). This changed once it was unified following the conclusion of the Six Day War.

Although divided territorially from 1948-1967, the undivided City of Jerusalem remained the capital of the Jewish people, although we couldn’t visit or pray at the Kotel/Western Wall, the second-most holy place to the Jewish people, until the conclusion of the Six Day War and the Jordanian occupation of the Old City ended.

The land then and now rightfully has a spiritual, as well as historic, significance to the Jewish people, Christians, and Muslims alike. That has not changed with President Trump’s announcement nor will it once Israelis and Palestinians negotiate on the future internationally recognized borders — should the elusive two-state solution plan become recognized (a plan that I personally support).

No country outside of Israel recognized Jerusalem as the capital in 1948 at the conclusion of the War for Independence because it wasn’t politically expedient to do so.

No country outside of Israel recognized Jerusalem as the capital in 1967 at the conclusion of the Six Day War because it wasn’t politically expedient to do so.

No country outside of Israel recognized Jerusalem as the capital before December 6, 2017, because it wasn’t politically expedient to do so.

But Jerusalem has been the home of the Israeli parliament, The Knesset. Jerusalem has been the home and offices of the prime minister and the president. And Jerusalem’s Supreme Court is located there.

As of December 7, the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Czech Republic recognizes West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Whether this step ends up being a step forward in isolation or part of a bigger rollout of the administration’s “Ultimate Deal” framework to create peace between the Israeli people and Palestinian people, one thing is for sure: Jerusalem is not the only disputed territory in Israel, though, with this action, the American people can presuppose that other actions are on their way.

The future of peace and each disputed territory will ultimately only be decided by the Israeli and Palestinian people, but this recognition helps to create a framework for a future peace plan rather than hinders one. No plan could have existed without Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Israel and the Jewish people.

Many Israel bashers, anti-Zionists, and non-Zionists harp on a second disputed territory as their cause du resistance. They call the “occupation,” justification for their calls to boycott Israeli-made products or companies that do business in the West Bank ("Judea and Samaria" to some) and as their justification for speaking against Israel. The disputed territory of the West Bank, though, includes another wrinkle as many of these critics include the Old City of Jerusalem in the West Bank. Israel does not.

Of these critics of Israel, few define what they mean by “occupation,” such as if their critiques are founded upon actions taken outside of the 1967 borders of Israel — preceding the conclusion of the Six Day War — or the 1947 borders that either predate the establishment of Israel or the lands marked to be part of a Jewish nation in the UN Partition Plan of that year.

The critiques are also usually heavily charged at Gaza — the third disputed territory (or second if you’re in the school of thought that the Old City of Jerusalem is a part of the West Bank). The challenge to those who claim that Gaza is occupied is that it factually isn’t occupied. Ariel Sharon forcefully and unilaterally removed all Jewish residents of Gaza in what was designed as a land-for-peace initiative. There is no permanent military or Jewish presence in Gaza. Gaza is controlled by the militant radical Islamic terrorist group Hamas, which is designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department. A trade blockade was put into practice as a counter-terrorist measure by Israel after Gaza returned the land not with peace but by becoming a launching pad for rockets and mortars by Hamas and other terror groups — like Islamic Jihad in the region — and more recently into a staging ground for terror tunnels whose exclusive use is to kidnap citizens and soldiers on the Israeli side of the Gaza border.

The Israeli government has no interest in claiming Gaza as a part of the Jewish State and any argument of imperialism or colonialism of Gaza is fiction. The claims that Gaza is the world’s largest outdoors prison, is simply conjecture and a false narrative too. The blockade is simply a reaction to terror. If Gazans want the blockade to end, all they have to do is disavow terror as a political tool and move to push Hamas out of power.

The fourth (or third, again depending on your interpretation of the Old City) disputed territory is the Golan Heights in the north. The Golan was previously high ground controlled by Syria and became a part of Israel following the Six Day War in 1967. 50 years later, Syria claims it as its land. Israel claims it as its land. The Palestinians do not claim it. The international community, including the U.S., doesn’t recognize it as Israeli land.

As Syria continues to fall deeper and deeper into the category of a failed state, the question of recognition of the Golan Heights should be top-of-mind as the next region that may get the Trump Administration and U.S. Congress’ attention for recognition — especially since it isn’t directly related to the Palestinian peace negotiations going on behind closed doors.

Language is important and the graying narrative of how some choose to describe the disputed territories creates confusion. Some of the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, or non-Zionists peddle quasi-facts, selective truths, or create a fictional narrative. They epitomize “fake news” and some spread lies.

A popular rallying cry at many anti-Israel and pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) events is, “Free, free Palestine. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” This isn’t a greying of the narrative. This is an outright assault on the legitimization of Israel. Those who preach this message believe in an entirely different narrative. They believe that all of the land on the west bank of the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea is Palestinian land (100 percent of Israel). They dispute the right of any land to be Israeli land. They promote the idea of a one-state solution, where Jews would either be a protected minority in a Palestinian State or a pan-Arab state; or a vision where, like in Gaza, Jews wouldn’t exist.

One of my favorite personal things about being Jewish is that our people generally have more questions than we have answers. That is encouraged in our values and traditions. But as I sat and listened to President Trump’s remarks and the Israeli and Palestinian responses, I kept thinking back to 1947. Then, the Arab community rejected statehood for Palestine for the first time in our modern history and of all of history. The question I had then as I do now as I wrote this piece, is whether the goal of some is to create a Palestinian State or is it something else? Offers have been made on several occasions beyond 1947 to create a Palestinian state. Is the issue with the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital that it legitimizes Israel? And thus is it more important for these individuals to delegitimize the Jewish State rather than create a Palestinian state?

The U.S. recognition of the facts on the ground doesn’t change the facts on the ground.

Jason Langsner is an active member of the American Jewish professional community. Langsner formerly ran the digital strategy for B'nai B'rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, and participated in the Israel Diplomatic Fellowship program at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. He has been featured in The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, the Israel Video Network, Washington Jewish Week, eJewishPhilanthropy.com, and other publications. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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President Donald Trump righted an American foreign policy wrong this week with the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. To some, this recognition was as evident as the sky is blue or the world is round.
trump, embassy, israel, golan heights, gaza
Friday, 08 December 2017 10:55 AM
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