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Editor's Report: What's Important about Trump's Declaration of Jerusalem As Israel's Capital and Instructions to Prepare to Move US Embassy to Jerusalem?

by Rhonda Spivak, December 6, 2017

Here's what strikes me as being important about President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his instructions to prepare to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem:

a. Trump did not specifically say that he was recognizing only West Jerusalem as Israel's capital. He could have said this had he wanted to. Because of this, one could conclude he is recognizing all of Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem as Israel's capital. He is certainly leaving that possibility open. Most importantly, he did not couple this declaration with a similar declaration that East Jeruaslem is the capital of a future Palestinian state. Trump could be signalling that he will support/propose a peace plan that gives the Palestinians the neighborhood of Abu Dis just outside of Jerusalem as its future capital, not Jerusalem itself.

b. Trump's declaration can be contrasted with Moscow's announcement in April 2017 (which largely largely went unnoticed) that it was recognizing west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. At the same time, however, unlike Trump , Russia reaffirmed its “commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which includes the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.”

c. Trump's proclamation states, that: "Today, December 6, 2017, President Trump recognized Jerusalem, the ancient capital of the Jewish people, as the capital of the State of Israel (emphasis added)." By using the word "ancient" Trump is acknowledging the Jewish people's historic claim to Jerusalem, which presumably would include control over the Temple Mount since this is clearly where the ancient capital of the Jewish people was. He has at the same time called for the continuing of the status quo on the Temple Mount, but this status quo means that Israel is ultimately in control.

d. I agree with Herb Keinon who wrote in the Jerusalem Post that Trump's declaration "sends a strong message to the Palestinians that their dream of rewriting history so that it does not include any Jewish historical ties to Jerusalem is simply not going to work. Such a recognition would correct a historical anomaly that denies Israel the right to say where its capital is, and it would serve as important recognition of Israel’s claim to the city." 


e. Trump has signaled that he is going to do things differently when it comes to the peace process, and his declaration about Jerusalem and moving the Embassy is a part of this. His reported peace plan involves an Israeli-Palestinian deal that would include transferring sections of the Sinai Desert from Egypt to a newly created Palestinian state. As Tova Lazaroff writes in the Jerusalem Post, according to the plan, "Egypt would give up 720 kilometers in the area of Rafah and El Arish, where it links to the Gaza Strip along the Mediterranean Sea, thereby tripling the Gaza territory. The Palestinians, in turn, would allow Israel to keep 12% of the West Bank in Area C. This would likely be the area within the boundaries of the security barrier, including blocs such as Ariel...Israel, in turn, would give Egypt land in the Negev in the area of Nahal Paran." http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Is-Trump-eyeing-a-plan-to-expand-a-Palestinian-state-into-Sinai-515838

f. Trump is arguably showing the Palestinians that they must be far more realistic in terms of their demands when it comes to the peace process. They may well pull out of the peace process, but the peace process has been frozen any way. It remains to be seen how violent the Arab street will be in reaction to Trump's declaration. (It's to be noted that  the Jerusalem issue engages all Muslims, not only Arabs-both against Israel, the US and the West. Given the smashing of ISIS in the Middle East and their calls for attacks within the West, and againt Christians at Christmas, and the Pope in particular, arguably the potential for terrorist attacks just went up a notch).


g. Last year on Dec 20, 2016, I wrote an article that was titled "Donald Trump Appears to be Very Serious About Moving the Embassy to Jerusalem." While he has just announced the beginning of the process of moving the Embassy  it could take some time (several years). I wrote last year: "It appears that the US Embassy will be in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona where the Diplomat Hotel stands currently. The Diplomat Hotel was already bought by the American government in 2014, as reported by Ynet (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4529927,00.html) This hotel currently serves the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, and Jewish new immigrants live there and must all be evicted before the property could be turned into the American Embassy. I have spoken with a source who knows a woman living in the hotel who has received an eviction notice. My source indicated that it will take some time before the US Embassy is actually moved (ie 2018 or 2019)."

h. It appears from the Globe and Mail that a federal official has already said that the Trudeau government will not follow Trump and move the Canadian embassy to Jerusalem. (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canada-will-not-move-embassy-to-jerusalem-federal-government-says/article37219576/) (As an aside B'nai Brith Canada has already called on Canada to follow Trump's declaration and move its embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem) But, it's important to note that US officials are saying it would take atleast 3-4 years to build a new US embassy which won't be completed before Trump's term, such that if Trump doesn't get a second term an incoming US President potentially could reverse the planned embassy move. 

i. Most Jews in America did not vote for Trump. The declaration he made will please his Christian evangelical base of supporters. His announcement comes just beforeChristmas. It is not lost on Trump's evangelical Christian base, that Christians are being discriminated against and are fleeing most areas of the Middle East where Muslims are in power. Trump well understands that if an Arab state or a consortium of Arab states were to ever have control over the Old City of Jerusalem, including Christian sites, then Christians in Jerusalem would not have their religious rites protected and would likely end up leaving the area. (Note this is what has happened in Bethlehem where Christians make up only 15% of the population when in the 1990's they were a solid majority. Compare this to inside pre- 67 Israel, where the Christian population has been growing steadily. The rise of Islamic intolerance is the reason why in Bethlehem and elsewhere in the Palestinian territories, Christians have been fleeing, just as they have been fleeing in Iraq, Egypt, and Syria.(See https://providencemag.com/2016/03/why-are-palestinian-christians-fleeing/)

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.