The Middle East would require a bold American leader to jumpstart peace negotiations in Jerusalem, if such a process is even possible. Since the mid-1970s, many presidents have tried but all have failed. The only way to ensure that the Palestinian Arab leadership gets serious about negotiations is to announce the relocation of the American Embassy to Jerusalem. This iconoclastic decision (no country recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital) is essential to convince the Arab world that American support for the Jewish State is rock solid. Otherwise, many Arabs will continue to believe that the Jews will eventually be forced out of “Palestine,” thereby eradicating Israel.
At the end of May, the president unfortunately followed the example of Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Bush by failing to enact the will of Congress by postponing the law’s implementation for another six months. By postponing the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump missed his first opportunity to accede to the 1995 law mandating the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He will have another opportunity at the end of the year to let the law take effect. It is imperative that President Trump do so. How? Simply by taking no action impeding it.
When the Arab world finally sees the US Embassy in Jerusalem, it will be forced to recognize that Israel will not be defeated, that Israel remains the region’s major power, and that there is no chance of even limited Palestinian autonomy without recognition of Israel’s existence as the Jewish state. Only a strong American president backing Israel will open the Arabs’ eyes (and European eyes too) to the reality that a State of Palestine will never have its capital in Jerusalem or wrest control of Judaism’s most holy site, the Temple Mount.
If President Trump is waiting for the “right time” to take this unprecedented action, it will never happen. July 4, 1776 was not the right time to declare American independence, nor was May 15, 1948, the right time to declare Israeli independence. Yet, without the fearless moves by George Washington and David Ben-Gurion, the United States and Israel might both have been still-born.
Even if negotiations result from President Trump’s urging, could a State of Palestine emerge? In my opinion, it won’t. Let’s see why: There are already two places where Palestinian Arabs are the majority – or all – of the population. Approximately 80% of Jordan’s population are “Palestinian.” King Abdullah is strongly supported by the minority Bedouin population; Palestinian support: not so much, despite the fact that the king’s wife is of Palestinian Arab descent. Without American and Israeli support, the king would rapidly be dethroned, though this doesn’t stop him from badmouthing Israel at every opportunity.
Gaza, an independent entity which could become a tiny state, is 100% Palestinian Arab, most of whom are related to the Jordanian-Palestinian Arabs. Gaza is ruled by Hamas, with competition from other, more radical Arab terrorists (ISIS, Islamic Jihad, etc.). Is it realistic to create a third state in Judaea and Samaria – the Jewish homeland – (Jordan + Gaza + …) for the Palestinian Arabs, who “discovered” their Palestinian nationality less than a century ago?
Four factors mitigate against that possibility. The first is that the new State of Palestine in the West Bank or Jordan would almost surely be ruled by terrorist butchers, such as is the case with Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Assad dynasty (coupled with Iran) in Syria. The second is that the Palestinian Arabs are already at war with each other, with the unpopular Fatah organization governing the Palestinian Authority/West Bank (most of Judea and Samaria) and the equally unpopular Hamas organization ruling Gaza. Their inability to cooperate prevents unity between the two entities. In addition, the two areas are not contiguous.
A third factor is Israel’s need for security. Israel is a bona fide nation, one of the world’s most advanced and powerful. It will not even consider enabling a new, terrorist-ruled state adjacent to and overlooking Israel’s most populous region, which includes its international airport and its connections between the two largest cities, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The fourth factor is the Muslim refusal to recognize an independent Jewish state on so-called Arab land. (The Arabs only arrived in the region in the early 6th c CE, thousands of years after the Israelites.) Which Arab Palestinian leader is willing to become a traitor to the Muslim cause by legitimizing Jewish hegemony over “Arab” land, assuring his assassination? Not Yasser Arafat, not Mahmoud Abbas, and not any upcoming successor to Abbas.
The most likely outcome of the Arab-Israel conflict is a continuation of the status quo, where Jordan is ostensibly the Palestinian State, Gaza is a statelet hemmed in by its two neighbors, Israel and Egypt; the Palestinian Authority muddles along, unable to satisfy its citizens; and Israel is forced to regulate Palestinian activity while supervising entry into Israel for the tens of thousands of Arabs who need employment and other services to survive. It’s not ideal by a long shot, but absent responsible Palestinian Arab leadership, and without other Arab states’ recognition of the Jewish state, the status quo may be the only possibility for the foreseeable future.
Without boldness and the recognition that the Arabs must cease their doctrinal animosity against Jews, no lasting agreement will emerge in the Middle East. The first step in that direction is for the US to reinforce Israel’s importance in the region as a force to be recognized and reckoned with. To do that, the US should announce the move of its embassy to Jerusalem by the end of 2017. Waiting beyond next December just postpones the inevitable and adds to the region’s problems. Mr. President, Israel awaits your confident, assured action!