Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel - but keep the embassy in Tel Aviv

According to multiple news outlets, President Trump will announce tomorrow that the United States officially and formally recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and that he will begin the process of moving the embassy there. President Trump has been clear that he is not committed to a two state solution, and that makes the move enormously symbolic in the eyes of Palestinians and their supporters.  Not surprisingly, the Muslim world and Palestinian Authority President Abbas have uniformly condemned the idea, and threatened Israel and the United States with the specter of violence and conflict in response.    A peaceful political move is immediately opposed with threats of violence. I believe that this is one of those moments where you see everyone's true colors.

The truth is, as a matter of established and objective fact, Jerusalem is the capital of the Modern State of Israel. 

The parliament meets there.  The prime minister lives there.  The government's offices are there. The law of the land has established itself there. The people of the democratic nation of Israel overwhelmingly support it. By every measure of objective and subjective fact, Jerusalem is a modern thriving city functioning in every way as the capital of the State of Israel. 

President Trump is not creating a new reality, he is describing an existing reality.  As a statement of truth, no matter whether you love or hate Israel, Jerusalem simply is the capital of the country. 

Now, there are those in the Palestinian side of the conflict who reject this idea. There is no basis in law, history, or pragmatism to deny Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Even the divided city of 1948 had a Jewish Quarter. Even since 1949, the Kenneset has met in the New City outside the old city's walls. Even before Israel conquered the entire city after Arab attack in 1967, and unified it under Israeli rule, Jewish self government already took place there.  If you recognize Israel, you recognize Jerusalem.


And there's the rub.  The only ones who have a logical argument to deny Jerusalem as the actual capital of Israel, are those who deny Israel itself.

Can the argument run the other way?  Sure.  Palestinians (under Jordan) had control of much of Jerusalem from 1948-1967, and surely they have legitimate claim to Jerusalem as their capital as well.  Let - under a genuine treaty of peace - their neighborhoods, and their towns, the seat of their university and government be recognized and also be a Jerusalem and their capital.  Two Jerusalems for two countries.  Only those who deny the Palestinians a right to a state would deny a Jerusalem as their capital as well.  It is exactly parallel.

But that is not what they are shouting for.  They are shouting against the Israeli Jerusalem, not for a Palestinian one.  Listen closely, and realize that it is the fact of Israel's existence that is the essence of their grievance.  Given that stance, forgive Israel if they moved ahead with peaceful living, legitimate sovereignty and independence while hoping for peace one day.

Do not fall prey to the argument of "provocation" that would blame anti-Israeli and anti-U.S. violence on us for making this move.  The abuser always seeks to blame the victim.  Let's be clear: anyone who responds to peaceful politics - like building an embassy - with violence is a terrorist.  Watch them show their true colors.  That is not to say that there is no validity to Palestinian grievance or aspiration.  Surely there is. But intifada is always the answer, instead of peace.

Now, as for moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem, that should not happen.  No, the argument against moving the embassy is that it would be a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars. The embassy in Tel Aviv is a huge structure, employing hundreds of people. It also houses a tremendous secure infrastructure for not just diplomatic, but military, intelligence and economic interests and agencies.  There is no need to replace or duplicate that structure at the expense of hundreds of millions of dollars just to make a symbolic point in support of Israel.  We don't need it, and we shouldn't build it, because it is not in our own best interests.

Yes, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.  No, that is not anything new. And no, that does not preclude a future with Palestinian dignity and independence, or even with their own capital of Jerusalem. But Mr. President, do not waste my money by dragging the embassy and all its contents and activities to Talpiot.  We have better things to spend our money on.

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