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Trump Unnecessarily Made Jerusalem a Mideast Flashpoint

Trump Unnecessarily Made Jerusalem a Mideast Flashpoint

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley speaks at its General Assembly, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, in New York. President Trump's threat to cut off U.S. funding to countries that oppose his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital has raised stakes sparked criticism of his tactics, with one Muslim group calling it bullying or blackmail. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

By Tuesday, 26 December 2017 01:13 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The announcement by President Donald J. Trump to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was condemned at the U.N. by a vote of 128 to 9, causing a diplomatic and media uproar.

Was this foreseeable? Or was the U.S. taken by surprise? The answer is simple.

Rarely has the U.S. been victim to a lack of understanding of the difference between form and substance; tactics and strategy; diplomacy and policy. Such distinctions are fundamental in the study of global affairs.

First Substance.

Of course Jerusalem cannot be divided. It was first divided when the city was taken over by force, by Jordan in the 1948 war. It was then closed off to Jews, in violation of international law — and U.N. resolutions.

Jerusalem under Israeli rule has worked well. The only real problems are zoning and allocation of land between Jews and Arabs. This becomes irrelevant and pointless once a peace is agreed upon, because protection of Arab rights in the city will obviously be a crucial element to be decided by the negotiating parties

Today there is absolutely no intelligent thinking on what would happen if Jerusalem were divided again. Would the city be governed by Hamas or the Palestinian Authority (PA)?Would Muslim holy sites remain under the control of the Hashemite King of Jordan rather than Shiite religious authorities aligned with Iran? Would the eastern sector of the city be demilitarized? Would Jews have access? Would Jewish religious authorities have similar governing responsibilities as the Muslims do today?

Now, Let's Go to Form and Diplomacy.

Almost never have diplomats walked in such lockstep, with only one country, Guatemala, agreeing to also move its embassy.

Political officials and public opinion in Europe, Asia, Russia, China, most countries in South America, the Arab Mideast, and North Africa share the view that what prevents the establishment of a Palestinian state is the Israeli refusal to divide the city.

As if the 5 million refuges living in refugee camps, the Gaza residents frozen in their aspirations by a war between Hamas and the PA, and in the final analysis the well being of real people, are not what counts, but rather the symbolic flying of a flag.

On Jerusalem the most divergent, most deep seated historical adversaries join hands. Israel in its insistence that the city not be divided is conveniently painted as a rogue nation, an enemy of human rights. The victim has become the oppressor. What at best can be termed uneasiness in Christian Europe at a Jewish state having political authority over Jerusalem has now burst out into the open.

How Has This Happened?

The sore that burns under the surface was propelled to center stage by President Trump.

The U.S. positioned itself as sharing a corner with Israel, as the most isolated country in the world from a diplomatic point of view. This made adversaries of otherwise significant and close allies. What is worse than thinking that with a magic wand you can make an issue disappear by placing it under a high beam spotlight, is having the very able U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley make idle threats of funding cutoffs to countries voting for the resolution.

The Trump initiative to move the embassy to settle the issue once and for all reflects a brutal failure to comprehend that what is right in the final analysis sometimes has very little to do with what is the reality of international diplomacy.

What gets sacrificed, perhaps because the Christian evangelists started having doubts about Donald Trump when he supported Judge Roy Moore in Alabama, is U.S. global prestige.

As Aaron David Miller, former adviser to Republican and Democratic secretaries of state said last week, if Trump’s intention was to take the issue off the table, what we reaped was Jerusalem being served up as the principal plate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

What bad tactics have done is compromise strategy. Palestinians now with massive support in the U.N. will now have appreciably decreasing interest in compromise. Lessening interest to the point where for the first time their leadership uniformly declared that they no longer want to work toward a two-state solution.

Israelis once favorable toward a greater compromise are now less likely to push forward in this direction. That is because they see increasingly that the world is against them; even to the extent that any affirmation of their own decision to locate their capital in Jerusalem provokes global outrage.

Mark L. Cohen has his own legal practice, and was counsel at White & Case starting in 2001, after serving as international lawyer and senior legal consultant for the French aluminum producer Pechiney. Cohen was a senior consultant at a Ford Foundation Commission, an advisor to the PBS television program "The Advocates," and Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He teaches U.S. history at the business school in Lille l’EDHEC. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Palestinians now with massive support in the U.N. will now have appreciably decreasing interest in compromise. Lessening interest to the point where for the first time their leadership uniformly declared that they no longer want to work toward a two-state solution.
gaza, hamas, miller, moore, pa
Tuesday, 26 December 2017 01:13 PM
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