Thoughts on US Embassy Move to Jerusalem

  • Since Jerusalem is actually Israel’s capital and since it will continue to be so in any putative peace settlement, I don’t see how this blocks such a settlement.
    • The US Consulate–and future Embassy–are in WEST Jerusalem. Everyone (except people who believe in Israel’s annihilation) understand that West Jerusalem will be part of Israel forever. No voluntary peace settlement will change that.
    • There was no American statement that the embassy move prevents some part of Jerusalem from being a Palestinian capital, too.
  • I don’t like hecklers’ vetoes on campus and I don’t like rioters’ vetoes elsewhere. That threat was used to try and block the move. It failed. Good.
  • The Palestinians have not exactly proven themselves partners for peace since Oslo.
    • Until now, the US had not made them pay any price for their truculence.
    • Now, it has.
  • The only way there will ever being peace, IMO, is if Israel thinks it is absolutely secure against Palestinian threats and has firm US backing against such threats.
    • Obama’s strategy made the opposite assumption. It made US support for Israel and other allies more problematic, more contingent on following US directions, and, of course, more hectoring. US friends in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and across the region understood and adjusted–against the US.
    • Trump has fundamentally reversed that policy, not only in Israel but in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere.
  • The only way many other Arab states will back off their rejectionist, maximalist demands to eliminate Israel is for them to be utterly convinced it is impossible and costly to continue.
    • Fundamentally, only Israeli military strength can convince them Israel will not be eliminated.
    • US support, including the moving of the embassy, shows that Israel cannot be completely isolated diplomatically. (Again, Obama’s moves against Israel raised question marks about diplomatic isolation.)
    • What will change the cost of Arab/Muslim/European opposition to Israel?  Two calculations:
      1. Fear of Iran, for states in the Middle East. They will edge toward alliance with other anti-Iranian states, of which Israel is the most powerful, the most technically sophisticated, and the most capable in its intelligence services.
      2. Desire for trade with a growing, sophisticated, and technologically-innovative economy.  It is called “start-up nation” for a reason. (The GDP per capita of once-poor Israel is now equal to Italy and about 20-30% below the wealthier European states. It is about 3.5x higher than Turkey, 7x higher than Iran, 10x higher than Jordan on a per capita basis.)
  • There are two fundamental obstacles to peace on the Palestinian side.
    1. They don’t have stable governance.
      • Even if they promised peace, the government might be upended and a new government reverse course.
      • Knowing that, even political moderates in the West Bank are fearful of suggesting deeper cooperation. They wouldn’t win and might well be killed.
    2. The Palestinian political class has never accepted the basic idea of a Jewish state in the region.
      • The Palestinians’ own rejection of Israel encourages that of Muslims across the region. Not that they need much encouragement.
      • That’s true of both people in the West Bank and Gaza and of their leaders.
      • The level of anti-Semitism in their schoolbooks, propaganda, and casual statements is breathtaking. . . and disgusting. One compelling piece of evidence: they actually pay monthly pensions to families of terrorists who kill Jews. The money comes from Western donors.
  • The rejectionist front against Israel now has two regional leaders: Iran, which has expanded across the region, and Turkey, which has become increasingly Islamist under Erdogan.
    • Again, Obama’s policies made these problems worse. In the case of Iran, so did Bush’s take down of Saddam Hussein without ensuring a replacement regime.
  • As with so many Trump policies, the movement of the US embassy represents a change based on a simple calculus: what we tried in the past did not work. Let’s try something different.
    • In this case, I think he’s correct.
    • There will be a short-term price to pay. But the long-run effect will be Muslim recognition that Israel cannot be exterminated (at least, by anything less than an Iranian nuclear attack). That may cause some of them to accept the reality and move on.
  • US domestic politics: Jews: most Jews follow the same path of college-educated, socially liberal Americans.
    • They are appalled by Trump personally and think his behavior in office is unbecoming. But there is a deeper shift beneath the surface.
    • The Democratic Party is increasingly anti-Israel, the Republicans pro-Israel.
      • That is leading to stronger Jewish backing for Republicans, especially among more observant Jews. There used to be almost no Jewish Republicans. Now, there are plenty.
      • Among other Jews, the Republicans association with social conservatism is a major obstacle to realignment. So is the widening distance between US Jews and Israel.
  • US domestic politics: Evangelicals. No group has supported Israel more steadfastly–or been a stronger support for Republicans. They will love this move.
  • Europe’s fecklessness on Israel is on full display, not that anyone doubted it. It fears its own unassimilated Muslim population and assumes its antagonism to Israel will win friends in the Arab/Muslim world.
    • When historians look back at the long arc at the century beginning in 1930, they will see that Europe has traded a well-integrated Jewish minority, which Hitler exterminated, for a poorly-integrated and growing Muslim minority. The Jews accepted the basic tenets of liberal democracy. Significant elements of the Muslim minority do not.
    • Anti-Semitism in Europe is a serious problem. It combines four groups: Muslims, left-wing intellectuals, traditional anti-Semites (both upper-class and religious conservatives), and right-wing nationalists. (The movement in the US contains the first two but the last two are different. Country-club anti-Semites are a much smaller group today, and the vast majority of nationalist/patriot Americans are actually pro-Israel. Except for the fringes, they don’t have the fascist, anti-Semitic slant of Europe’s right-wing movements.)
  • Effects beyond the region: North Korea. By keeping a prominent campaign promise, Pres. Trump has made his other promises and threats more credible. That will have some effect as Beijing thinks about Trump’s threats to deal with North Korea
  • For people who say “all this sets back the peace process,” the short answer is “what peace process?

  • Fred Baumann
    December 7, 2017

    Right on target. I hadn’t thought of the message being sent to China and North Korea. I think the big point is that this is a wake-up call to the Palestinians and other Arabs. Playing to their fantasy that Israel doesn’t really exist and won’t be there tomorrow when they wake up, if they really, really pretend hard, has been very stupid. Not doing that should help.

  • Randy
    December 7, 2017

    Charles, I agree with much of what you say here, though I am not a fan of Bibi and not as negative about Obama. However, I wonder if evangelicals’ support for Israel can truly be equated with support for Jews and Judaism. Fundamentalist Christians have a problematic tendency toward anti-Semitism, and Trump’s anti- Semitic dog whistles have appealed to that strain.

  • Richard Rayburn
    December 7, 2017

    Great Article,
    There was never an intent for peace.The USA needs to quit funding both sides of this equation .
    Those Western countries funding this farse is the USA.Palestine’s take this physical year (251 Million) Arafat became a billionaire on our dime.It would take honest give and take from both sides . Watched this argument for 50 years .

  • Marc Liebman
    December 7, 2017

    Well said. I grew up in West German during the fifties and sixties when Germany allows “gastarbeiters” (guest workers) from Yugoslavia and Turkey to work in its factories. If they did not violate German law, after 10 years, they were allowed to stay and become German citizens. When they did so, most did not assimilate into the general population. Germany is paying that price now.

    France was different. During and after the Algerian civil war, many Algerians were allowed to live in France and they were known as “pied noirs.” Again, they did not assimilate. Paris now has large sections of the city where the police will not go.

    Anti-semitism, from whatever source, has never died out in Europe and never will go away. Even before Hitler, it was government sponsored in Russia and even the Soviet Union despite the fact that many of the original Bolsheviks were Jews. In other countries. Technically, it was illegal to practice Judiasm in Spain under the Alhambra degree issued in 1492 until it was formally revoked by the Vatican in 1968.

    Iran is the largest, most active state sponsor of terrorism. They were emboldened by the Obama nuclear deal and the threat to the U.S. and its interests are as great, if not greater than North Korea. A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to Europe as well as Israel and more likely to act than North Korea. Kim Jung-un is more interested in regime survival and his political calculus is based solely on what is good for him, not his people or his country. The mullahs, on the other hand, are religious fanatics who willingly encourage terrorist acts, are involved neck deep in Syria and Iraq. They see death differently than we do in the Western World. While we often joke about the promises to suicide bombers that if they kill infidels, they will go to heaven and meet 70 virgins, it is what they believe. It makes the behavior of the leaders of Iran more unpredictable and more likely to do something dumb. It is one of the primary reasons the nations on the south side of the Arabian Gulf are rearming.

    Here in the U.S., anti-Semitism exists and is growing. Just look at what is happening on college campuses. Which brings me back to American Judiasm. I find it amazing that so many American Jews blindly followed the Democratic party. For years, the party said one thing and did another with regard to Israel. Clinton forced Israel into the Oslo accords which the Israelis, for the most part, observed. The Palestinians essentially ignored them. Obama literally screwed them on the way out the door by his vote in the U.N. allowing the settlements on the West Bank to be declared illegal under international law. Their continued existence should be a matter negotiated with the Palestinians. The movement of the embassy should have been done years ago.

  • Dave Schuler
    December 7, 2017

    The Jerusalem Embassy Act, enacted into law in 1995, requires the U. S. to move its embassy to Jerusalem no later than 1999. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush promised to do so, ultimately reneging on those promises. Clinton, Bush, and Obama all filed executive exceptions to the law.

    IMO there are three legal and moral courses of action. Either the law should be repealed, it should be challenged in the courts, or it should be followed. The mugwumpery with which American presidents have been acting is a threat to the rule of law.

  • Michael Bauer
    December 7, 2017

    Well done as usual Charles! I am no fan of Bibi and strongly support a two-state solution. But Jerusalem is and should always remain the unified capital of Israel. It is as Israeli as Tel Aviv or Haifa. Its sovereignty is already resolved.

  • Herbert Caplan
    December 7, 2017

    This is the most comprehensive and precise description of the situation in the middle-east involving Israel (other than a comment on the consistent unspoken inbred anti-semitism of the American State Department).

    Palestinean “leadership” (sic) has always wanted extermination and has never wanted peace to break out; and the grand strategy of Iran, and Russia, is to take over and Lebanonize (or Iraq/Syrianize) Israel and, in the guise of religion, to lead and control the entire region and control all its resources (and now recently discovered large Mediteranean natural gas fields) , and use the radical “ISIS Caliphate” syndrome, terrorist supporting, Muslim masses to constantly stoke conflict and prevent a resolution until the U.S. gives up and goes away and the Jews can be “removed” (like so many Christians).

    Might the President indeed become the trump card.

  • KL
    December 7, 2017

    That guy (name escapes) who does travel shows aired on pbs interviewed Israelis and Palestinians and, I thought, blamed Israel as being progenitor of unrest.
    Of course, he’s always respectful and appreciative of all cultures but I thought he really did spin on this one.

  • Ed Vidal
    December 7, 2017

    Jerusalem is the city of David, King David’s royal city, and has been inhabited by Israelites for 3,000 years. The Arabs are the newcomers, having arrived in A.D. 635.

    The continuing survival of the nation of Israel as a distinct and recognizable people group, unprecedented around the world, constitutes empirical evidence that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob keeps his promise, and therefore that he lives.

    Especially when you listen to most Jews and realize that this crew today has no idea about eternal life, but they still live eternally as a collective extended family. God must be at work! Divine providence is the only explanation for the continuing survival of the Jews.

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