Throwing conventional wisdom to the wind, 71-year-old President Donald Trump looks to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Palestinian officials reacted badly, warning of a new “intifada” or uprising. Israel annexed Jordan’s Jerusalem and the West Bank, Egpyt’s Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights after the 1967 Six Day War. Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem isn’t intended to inflame Palestinians but to encourage them to seek a peace deal in which they will receive East Jerusalem as a capital of a future Palestinian state. As long as Palestinians continue to threaten war over an internal U.S. decision, prospects for peace and future state look dismal. Palestine Liberation Organization’s [PLO] 82-year-old leader Mahmoud Abbas warned of dire consequences, prepared to stage more car-rammings and suicide bombings.
Trump isn’t intimidated by threats from Arab nations, knowing the history Arab-Israeli peace talks. No matter how much Palestinians get, it’s never enough, short of Israel disbanding, returning all the land to Palestinians. Abbas “warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world.” To Abbas, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would destabilize the Middle East and the world. Abass’s hyperbole matches that of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, threatening Sept. 13 to turn the U.S. to “ashes and darkness,” “sink” Japan and “wipe out” South Korea. There’s nothing in Trump’s move that denies Palestinians the right to negotiate a comprehensive peace deal, including establishing East Jerusalem as its capital. Abbas’ overreaction shows he’s not really serious about peace talks.
Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate the U.S. embassy seeks to stimulate Palestinians into real negotiations. When the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat walked away from peace talks negotiated by former President Bill Clinton in July 2000, Palestinians got the lion’s share of concessions and still walked out. Now Abbas threatens a new uprising, encouraging the Arab World to join another Mideast War against. Israel. Jordan’s King Hussein and Egypt’s Abel Fatah el.-Sissi recalls the consequences of war with Israel. Yet Abbas, who can’t even unify the PLO with its contentious relationship with Hamas in Gaza, threatens war with zero resources, knowing the widespread poverty in Gaza and West Bank. Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem does nothing to change prospects for a future peace, only lets Palestinians know the U.S. is moving on.
Turkey’s 63-year-old President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lectured Trump about the consequences of such a move. “Mr. Trump, Jerusalem is the red line of Muslims. It is a violation of international law to take a decision supporting Israel while Palestinian society’s wounds are still bleeding,” said Erdogan, making zero sense. How does the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem change anything? Paletinians’ bloody wounds are largely self-inflicted because of waste, fraud, mismanagement and corruption. How many billions have been poured into the Palestinian territories over the years without showing results? Palestinian leadership, including Hamas and the PLO, prefer war over peace because it keeps the population focused on Israel, not egregious corruption with Palestinian officials. Israel has managed Jerusalem since 1967, guaranteeing access to Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites.
Threatening to sever ties with the U.S., Erdogan panders to his Islamist base, after cracking down in Turkey following July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt. Erdogan blames U.S. support for 76-year-old exiled Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulan. Erdogan insists without proof that Gulan orchestrated the failed coup from his compound in rural Pennsylvania. Ergodan’s angry because he hasn’t made a coherent case for Gulan’s extradition. “If the Americans recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, then this would mean they decided on their own, to distance themselves from the efforts to make peace and that they will have no credibility or role in this issues,” said Abbas adviser Majdi Khaldi. Since 1967, Americans have recognized Israel’s right to manage Jerusalem after Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, with support from eight other Arab states, lost the Six Day War.
All the failed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have cost the U.S. untold millions trying to serve as an impartial broker. Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem says nothing about future peace talks or precluding Palestinians from negotiating East Jerusalem as their capital. All the bluster from Abbas does nothing other than inflame Palestinians, already living under dire circumstances. More uprisings or war will only make those conditions worse. Trump’s the only U.S. president ready to say to Palestinians: Put up or shut up about peace efforts. Whatever the U.S. does with its embassy can’t be dictated by threats by Palestinians or anyone else. Whatever the prevailing wisdom, Trump was elected to rock-the-boat in Washington and around the world. Instead of more threats and demands, Palestinians should figure out what they want to do about a future state.