President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, beginning the process of relocating the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, has prompted warnings of Arab violence. The concern is that the move may undermine the chances of advancing peace efforts.
King Abdullah of Jordan warned of the "dangerous repercussions" of such a move and Mahmoud Abbas warned of the consequences that such step may have on the peace process, as well as the overall stability of the region.
These arguments were echoed by several countries including Turkey, Egypt, and Syria.
France decalred that such an issue should be resolved in a final status negotiation between both sides. Some Democrats and media analysts in the U.S expressed similar concerns.
However, the UK and the Vatican wisely avoided strong judgements on the subject.
Those arguments expressing fear of Arab rage, have failed to see the big picture.
Israel offered a solution on Jerusalem during negotiations with the Palestinians. In 2000, during the Camp David Conference Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered sovereignty over Arab Jerusalem and Palestinian custodianship over the Muslim holy sites.
That offer was far-reaching and unprecedented, where Israel broke the dogma of one unified Jerusalem, a gesture President Clinton fully acknowledged and admired.
Likewise, he agreed to concede territories in East Jerusalem, in the Old City, and the Temple Mount. Then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat demanded sovereignty over all of East Jerusalem and over the holy sites. In order to defend his position on Jerusalem, Arafat was even willing to shame himself with absurd arguments and distorted facts like, "the ruins of the old Jewish temple were not in Jerusalem but in Nablus."
That negotiation ended in a 5-year violence, known as the Second Intifada.
Still, less than half a year after the collapse of Camp David, Israel accepted the "Clinton parameters, a proposal for final peace between the parties including again recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state, inclusive of the Arab suburbs as well as the Arab quarters of the old city.
However, Arafat responded again by demanding control over the al-Aqsa Mosque and the entire Temple Mount. In other words, Arafat demanded control over all the holy sites — Muslim, Christian Jewish (including the Western wall, the holiest site to the Jewish people).
The reality is that insistence of the retention of 100 percent of Jerusalem does not sound like an appropriate negotiating strategy. It's true that the negotiating process may start from the unreasonable, even sometimes from the absurd. But the unreasonable cannot be proposed this late in the process or in any realistic negotiations where the parties seek a successful outcome.
This is not the end. In 2008 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made another offer to Mahmoud Abbas — Arafat’s successor. According to that offer, the Palestinian capital would be in East Jerusalem and Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan, and the U.S. would govern the Old City jointly. The Saudis could be part of it, provided they recognize the state of Israel. The Arab neighborhoods would be part of the Palestinian state and the Jewish neighborhoods part of Israel. This offer received no response from Abbas.
Can we really say that reasonable solutions have not been tried? A U.S. Embassy in West Jerusalem is going to change a Palestinian attitude that has been negative all along? What gesture or step would bring about a positive Palestinian attitude?
Egypt refused to respond to president Bill Clinton’s call to give support to Arafat to make concessions during the Camp David negotiations. Egypt walked away from the entire peace process except for introducing negative resolutions on Israel in the U.N. on behalf of the Palestinians. France and a few other European countries supported a UNESCO resolution denying the special connection between the Western Wall and the Jewish people.
Why did France do it? To appease and please the Arab and Palestinian street? To avoid terrorist attacks on its soil? It certainly wasn’t to advance peace.
The real problem of the peace process does not lie in a U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Furthermore, such move does not preclude the possibility of a compromise on East Jerusalem. The question is: Will the Palestinians come forward? The answer is "No." The Palestinian Authority (PA) is too weak and illegitimate to make compromises. For their part, Arab countries have not done much to support such compromises.
President Trump’s move on Jerusalem sends a clear message to the Palestinians and Arab countries that they no longer can have veto powers on Jerusalem and that they should play once and for all a positive role in promoting peace and reconciliation with Israel. A policy guided by fear of Arab rage would have been be a sign of weakness and a perilous flawed foreign policy. Trump made the right decision.
Luis Fleischman has worked as adviser for the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy on issues related to Latin America. He is the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." Fleischman is an adjunct professor of sociology and political science at Barry University. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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