Tags: israel | jerusalem | palestinian | peace | embassy

Palestinian, Western Intransigence an Obstacle to Jerusalem Peace

Palestinian, Western Intransigence an Obstacle to Jerusalem Peace
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

By Tuesday, 16 January 2018 03:46 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday launched an attack on America and its president with the words “let your house be demolished.”

The Palestinian leader has persisted in his counterproductive rhetoric and conviction that without Jerusalem as the capital, Palestine is condemned never to exist.

What is unfortunate and terribly troublesome is that he has been encouraged by a consistent floundering of the notion that without a division of Jerusalem a settlement is impossible by a plethora of political columnists in the United States and Western Europe and more importantly the vote of 128 countries, including America’s closest allies, who condemn the United States at the UN for the decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

Commentators in France have considered that despite the courage displayed on many fronts by Emmanuel Macron, the Israel-Jerusalem question is so wrought with political ramifications both from the point of view of appeasing domestic Arab populations and the French commercial and political presence in North Africa and the Middle East that France could not deviate from its standard pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel doctrine.

Ill-thought-out, worldwide opinion thus blesses a negotiating position that boils down to: “Unless you give me what I want, I’ll walk away.”

What are normally reasonable moderate thinkers have become spokesmen for what can only be characterized as extremism.

Never mind that the conclusion that because of the location of the U.S. Embassy the city is destined to never be divided is totally contrary to U.S. policy, which is that the status of the city will depend on negotiations between the parties.

To interpret the move of the embassy as denying the parties their own authority to take negotiating positions reflects the mentality of naysayers who wait to find reasons never to make progress.

But is there any degree of logic that a decision by the United States that Jerusalem will remain undivided would mean that statehood is impossible? This would attribute to Palestinians a willingness to abandon their interest in achieving a viable economic social and political country of their own in favor of spearheading an attack against Jewish occupation of Jerusalem as if they are the spiritual representatives of the entire Muslim world?

It is not only counterproductive but a blemish on the Palestinians to attribute to them the extremist declarations of their leaders. And politicians in the West and commentators who adopt this absurd, all-or-nothing idea lend credibility to the current leadership as being more comfortable with conflict than in running a country.

The view that without Jerusalem Palestine cannot exist was unveiled as absurd and without foundation by a senior Egyptian official, Capt. Al-Kholi who suggested that the Palestinian capital does not need to be in Jerusalem. Two weeks earlier Saudi Arabia also put forward this same position.

We have not witnessed the predicted uprising in the Arab world after the Trump embassy announcement. This may be because of ambivalence toward vesting the Palestinian leadership with authority over East Jerusalem, especially because the king of Jordan is now the Muslim supreme authority over the city’s holy sites. Furthermore, it is difficult to conclude that Muslim nations in the world want Jerusalem to be governed by Palestinian politicians, some of whom are on the list of world terrorist organizations. In any event, the instability of their leadership and their contentious piloting of negotiations leave a serious doubt as to whether their sovereignty over a part of the capital would serve the interest of peace in the region.

Before Israel was created there were literally no Muslim pilgrimages to Jerusalem. It was when the Arab world came to understand that there was also a distaste with Jerusalem under Jewish control from the Catholic Church and various Russian and Orthodox Christian denominations that the city jumped to a spotlight status, leading to confusion and passion to the detriment of the creation of a viable social, economic, and political Palestine.

The voting position of the 128 countries who voted at the UN against the U.S. decision move of its embassy is difficult to explain unless it is Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem that inflames passions to the point where the credibility, reputation, and moral authority of UN itself is dangerously damaged.

Did Israel refuse to establish the Jewish State in Palestine when the UN in 1947 declared Jerusalem an international city? Of course not.

As a reminder, the Arab countries at the time neither militated for an independent State nor that Jerusalem would be the capital of Palestine. And when Jerusalem was closed off to Jews for 20 years, not once was a UN resolution proposed condemning what was a blatant violation of the UN Charter.

Is it terribly unreasonable for Israel, after having suffered a prohibition of Jewish access to the city before 1967, to consider that a division of the city would lead it to be a cause of conflict and be an impediment to good relations with its new neighbor?

It would be certainly possible that in a final peace settlement Jerusalem remains undivided under Israeli sovereignty but Arab-Israeli passports and also Palestinians are given the opportunity to settle in the Arab quarter.

The sharing of authority by Israel over religious sites with Christian and Muslim authorities has worked well to the point where it is the Israel government itself which prohibits Jews from entering the Temple Mount.

It is those who place the embassy move as an obstacle to peace who hold a very dim view of Jews and Arabs ever being able to live peacefully together and side by side.

And it is the chorus of opposition to even a hint that ultimately Jerusalem will not be divided that condemns the negotiating process to failure.

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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Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday launched an attack on America and its president with the words “let your house be demolished.”
israel, jerusalem, palestinian, peace, embassy
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 03:46 PM
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