Is Israel Better Off With The American Embassy In Jerusalem?
The articles are everywhere—in the paper and on the web. On Monday, May 14, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner opened the new American embassy in Jerusalem. Even though this city has been the capital of Israel since the country’s inception in 1948, the official residence of the American ambassador has been in Tel Aviv. For the first nineteen years, safety could not have been guaranteed in Jerusalem as much of the city was under Jordanian control. After the 1967 War Jerusalem opened to the rest of the world when Israel captured the Old City and subsequently annexed East Jerusalem as well. The city became a symbol for the on-going struggle between the Arabs and the Jews for who has control of the land. This struggle goes on to this day.
One of the pieces of the puzzle was always the final status of Jerusalem. It was always supposed by those wishing a two-state solution, that the western part of the city would be in Israel and the east in Palestine. That was fifty years ago. Progress in the Middle East is slow.
Now, in a move previously thought to be fraught with danger for its ability to destabilize the relative calm, President Trump has moved the American embassy to Jerusalem. It is located on the “green line” the old border between 1967 Israel and 1967 Jordan. It’s all Israel now.
In response the Arabs of Gaza are in an uproar and many have been shot dead by the Israeli Defense Force. There are demonstrations against the U.S. move in Turkey and that country has recalled its ambassador to Israel. While only Israel can decide what its capital is and other countries can decide whether or not to put their embassies there, this move has stirred up a hornets nest—unnecessarily. It gets us nothing and gets the Israelis even less.
What do we know to be true?
Both the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs claim the same land. Currently Israel occupies most of it by dint of force and actually exerts control over much of the territory containing mostly Arabs on the so-called West Bank as well. Gaza, to the west of Israel is an isolated disaster area where unemployment and poverty reign and many of its citizens feel hopeless and have nothing to lose by hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers on the border.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is claiming a great victory with the embassy having been moved to Jerusalem, but it is Pyrrhic at best. As has been the case since the 1967 War, Israel has to make a tough choice. Jewish state, democracy, current land holdings—pick two.
The one-state solution wherein the Arabs become citizens of a greater Israel will not be a Jewish state for long unless the Arab citizens of this Israel are less then the Jewish ones. This is no democracy. In the end, I guess somehow the Israelis will have to decide whether or not they can trust the Palestinians enough to cede them some land to create a country.
If not, this goes on forever and that may well be the way Israelis like it.
My four trips still leave me with the same feeling. There are some Israelis who could actually deal with a heterogeneous country in which Arabs have full citizenship. There are other Israelis who would never tolerate it. Many of them live in Jerusalem.
So here’s a suggestion. Create a problem list and try to solve the problems on the list.
The Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank want to return to homelands they lost in 1948. That’s not likely to happen. Gaza is a teakettle with the heat up high. It is in everyone’s best interest to turn down the heat. That will take the efforts of both Israel and Egypt, but mostly Hamas which rules Gaza to accept the presence of Israel and to forego the right of return for a homeland that includes Gaza and the West Bank under rule that is far less corrupt than what is currently in place there.
These are hard problems. They have been hard for years. But enough foolishness, and the movement of the embassy was foolishness, made to provoke and to solve nothing.
One-state that includes the Arabs or two-states with a Jewish Israel and an Arab Palestine. But mostly, the people who live there have to decide. The United States only seems to make things worse.
And oh yes, that’s Iran on the eastern side of Israel in Syria knocking on the door. This is a dangerous neighborhood. President Trump and Javanka just made it more so.