The diplomatic efforts to push Trump to avoid moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem were to no avail.
Trump once again went out on his own, defying the sentiment of world leaders and also his own foreign policy advisors. He lost the opportunity to trade off the embassy move for Israeli concessions or a withdrawal of the proposal in exchange for Palestinian and Arab-country major concessions.
And now that the decision is taken, there have been four days of street protests that although less widespread than predicted, are nonetheless violent.
What is troubling is the reaction and response of European and Arab political leaders because they are sitting back and effectively conveying the message “See I Told You So” as if political decisions should not be taken concerning Israel and the Middle East if they are unpopular or risk violent street protests.
The UN Security Council meeting on Friday was convoked to protest the emplacement of an embassy, whereas there was almost no official condemnation of governments either acquiescing silently or encouraging civil disorder and street violence. In fact the Prime Minister of Turkey, Erdogan, encouraged violence by labeling Israel — a country like all others that does not decide where foreign governments locate their embassies — a “terrorist state” and a “state that murders children,” without any resolution proposed against Turkey.
It was for the United States' UN ambassador Nikki Haley alone to criticize the United Nations and certain governments for their responsibility for the failure of progress in finding a peaceful solution in the region. Until today the only political leader to publicly call for calm is the French president, Macron.
The generalized worldview is that when Arabs and Muslims don’t like decisions it is perfectly normal that they turn to violence.
Is not this expectation racist?
Would it be also the natural consequence of a U.S. foreign policy position recognizing for example Catalonia or Scottish independence that the Spanish and the British burst out in violence and burn the American flag?
The anger throughout the Muslim world at the change in embassy location could be more meaningfully directed to protest that fifth generation Palestinians refugees are closed off in camps and forbidden residency, jobs, and travel in countries where they are residents.
When Jerusalem was under Jordanian control from 1948 until the 1967 war with a mandate to allow peoples of all faiths access, did Jews revolt or for that matter did any government protest in the United Nations when Jews were prohibited from entering the city?
Following the taking of Israeli control over Jerusalem in 1967, Muslim and Christian worship was respected and control over religious sites was placed under the control of the religious, not Israeli, authorities. Jordan’s King Abdullah functions without protest or conflict of any sort with the Israeli authorities as guardian of Muslim holy sites.
It is clear that the predominant view is that for diplomacy to function, the way should be left open to the eventuality of Jerusalem serving as the capital of two countries. However the embassy move does not foreclose dividing Jerusalem to allow establishing the capitals of two countries as was made explicit in Trump’s statement. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the extent of anger and mob violence leaves Israelis who have favored a two-state and two-capital solution with the sentiment that it is unrealistic to expect that Palestinian control over East Jerusalem would leave them in a better position than when under Jordanian control Jews were banned from their holy sites. Today taking into account that in certain Muslim countries minority Christians suffer discrimination and violence, it is difficult to imagine why some Christian organizations are militating against the move of the U.S. Embassy.
Governments and mainstream media are silent on two truths that are undeniable in a political international environment that pretends to be civilized.
One: Whatever the diplomatic error, mob violence as a reaction is unacceptable and any official encouragement to violence should be sanctioned in the Security Counsel.
Two: The choice of the United States to place its embassy where the Israeli government sits cannot justify in any sense violence against Israel, which made Jerusalem its capital 70 years ago.
What is troubling, in addition to the silence as to violence, is the absurd and fallacious conclusion that now because of the decision on emplacement of the U.S. embassy no peace is possible and the two-state solution is dead.
The Palestinian Authority has announced that it no longer wants an independent Palestinian State alongside Israel. This is testimony to the very idea, held by many in Israel and elsewhere, that the success of two-state formula was only a tactical step and that the insistence of the Palestinian Authority on the repatriation 4 to 5 million refugees to present Israel (not what is to be the new Palestinian State) thinly veils their ultimate objective to deal a death sentence to Israel itself. Perhaps the right wing extremist Israelis have been right in believing that the Palestinians never wanted a modest West Bank/Gaza State and were willing to accept this form of statehood only if 100 percent of their demands were accepted allowing the new state to be a jumping pad to take the remainder of Palestine.
If the natural expected response to unpopular and even mistaken decisions is violence, then it is the acquiescence and silence in face of that violence that is the real impediment to peace.
What is the response of the so-called objective European countries who boast that they are objective in their pursuit of a solution to the Middle East conflict if all issues get resolved but Israel refuses to abandon sovereignty over Jerusalem. Can anyone seriously justify that on that basis alone the country Palestine never gets established? And if this is the case, is the Palestinian leadership interested in founding a new country or in fact in marshaling street unrest and leading angry mobs, which is much easier than governing.
In short does the Trump move in fact bring to the surface the most serious flaw in the Palestinian nationalist movement?
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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