The Arab street's revolt following President Trump's historic decision to put an end to the American wait-and-see attitude towards Jerusalem, despite the fact that Israel established its capital at its rebirth in 1948, were to be expected.
Also to be expected was the worried reactions of many governments, especially European ones, which, while having established chancelleries in Jerusalem and making regular visits to their Israeli counterparts, are offended by this change of course of the US administration, which in truth is hardly a change. Former Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama had promised it. Trump is right in saying that he is the only one to have made good on that commitment.
As I discovered while filming “ Unveiling Jerusalem
,“ the holy city did not really become important for the Muslim world until its recapture by Israel in 1967. Under Jordanian occupation, the area was totally abandoned, as evidenced by many vintage photos and footage. It should also be emphasized that only Muslims had access to the holy places of the three monotheistic religions until their re-conquest by Israel.
Voices are now rising that would have you believe that the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state has become a new obstacle to the peace process.
However, it is well known that this process has so far produced only violence, because Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are convinced that the threat and use of terror are a far more effective means of obtaining everything they want, and more, than a return to the negotiating table. It has been going on for more than 20 years.
To reach an agreement, Israel still needs to have a genuine partner who does more than shout out "occupation" and incite violence whenever asked for the smallest concession.
Israel may be the country of the Jews, but it is a country like any other, which should have the same rights, including that of defining its capital and to draw defensible boundaries. It should also have the right not to be systematically slandered and condemned by the United Nations driven by an agenda and a certain majority that often barely masks its anti-Semitism.
How were many countries in Europe able to abstain when UNESCO wrested from the Jewish people all attachment to their holy city by declaring Jerusalem an “occupied” city and by renaming the Temple Mount "Haram al Sharif?" Nobody had thought it necessary to intervene between 1948 and 1967, when practically all Jewish synagogues and cemeteries in Jerusalem were destroyed by the Jordanian occupier.
It is also necessary to revolt against this post-colonialist mentality, which allows some to define themselves as supposedly impartial judges of a situation that they have nevertheless helped create.
Lord Balfour could indeed be reproached for having promised the Jewish people the creation of a National Home in this desolate, barren land with no future after the victory of Western democracies against the Ottoman Empire, but is not the main crime of England rather to have enacted in 1939 the "White Paper" which allowed a massive Arab immigration while limiting that of the Jews?
As an aside, the "White paper," which participated passively in the extermination of the Jews of Europe by preventing them from finding refuge in Mandatory Palestine, was signed by Neville Chamberlain. This same Chamberlain who, in the company of Daladier, had thought to appease Hitler by abandoning Czechoslovakia in 1938.
I would like, for a moment, to appeal to renowned witnesses, who described in their time what would become of Israel and who, by their writings, erase the mythology of a formerly populated Palestine, in which religions lived in harmony.
Mark Twain. Innocents abroad
"Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. Palestine is desolate and unlovely – Palestine is no more of this workday world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition, it is dreamland."(Chapter 56)
"There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country". (Chapter 52)
"A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely. We never saw a human being on the whole route". (Chapter 49)
["There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent – not for thirty miles in either direction. ...One may ride ten miles (16 km) hereabouts and not see ten human beings." ...these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness..."(Chapter 46)
Chateaubriand. Journey to the East
"And as Jerusalem comes out of the wilderness, shining with brightness, cast your eyes between mount Zion and the temple; see this other little People (the Jews) who live apart from the rest of the inhabitants of the city. Enraptured, he lowers his head without complaining; he suffers all insults without asking for justice; he lets himself be overwhelmed with blows without sighing; he is asked for his head: he presents it to the scimitar "
When Federica Mogherini claims that Jerusalem should now be recognized as the capital of a developing Palestine, on what legal and historical basis does it stand, apart from the need to give in to blackmail to terror and to keep the Muslim populations at peace? Does the selection of certain UN resolutions suffice, when the original sin is none other than the rejection by all the Arab countries of the Decision 181 declaring the partition of Mandatory Palestine and de facto granting a state to the Jewish people?
Knowing full well that a large part of the Arab world, incited by its leaders to hatred against Israel and the Jewish people, is not ready to acknowledge the existence of what many Muslim countries, including Iran, continue to call the "Zionist entity", some governments have thought it good to be peaceful by affirming Israel's friendship on the one hand, while keeping the Arabs of Palestine in the hope that they might one day "reconquer" the land they covet.
Was it not time to put some barrier to this politically correct deliquescence and to assert truths? Those who listened carefully to Trump's speech found there, contrary to the distortions that he automatically brought about, a maturity and an encouraging realism for the peace process.
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Yes. It is a fact. It's history. But is the door closed to the creation of an autonomous and peaceful Palestine, with the help of the international community?
Was it not time to remember that Israel was a victim of terrorist attacks on a daily basis since its rebirth, long before the Jewish state was accused of occupation? This "occupation" now serves as a pretext for the worst acts of crime, such as the killing of children and girls in their sleep, or the launching of rockets aimed deliberately at civilian populations by terrorist organizations born of Palestinian nationalism.
Was it not time, in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to tell the Arab and Muslim world that we must learn to share and that the Jews have suffered enough, that they are entitled, like all people, to a total self-determination, and not paid lip service, by paternalistic rhetoric?
Is it not time to explain to Mahmoud Abbas that he cannot continue to claim that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine, when it has never been, since Palestine never was a state or a country? During the filming of Unveiling Jerusalem
I was astonished when Sheikh Omar Kiswani, the director of the Al Aqsa mosque, tried to make me believe that the mosque had been built by Adam, or maybe one of his sons, Abel or Caïn. Those are the mythologies which Palestinians have been led to believe, since Yasser Arafat declared to Bill Clinton that no Jewish Temple had ever been built… on Temple Mount.
Was it not also time to demonstrate that Obama and Kerry's obsession with building a few houses in Zone C as the only obstacle to peace was the very cause of the most violent recent acts of violence, since it exonerated the worst crimes on the pretext that they resulted from frustration?
The explosion following Donald Trump's planned and expected announcement has made it almost impossible to mention an encouraging initiative by Saudi Arabia and the United States on regional peace.
According to the New York Times,
the Jerusalem Post
and several serious sources, Prince Mohammed Bin Slaman, a progressive realist who has made his mission to lead his country to modernity, would have invited Mahmoud Abbas to accept a demilitarized Palestine in zones A and B - which are already totally under its control - and Gaza, with Abu Dis as capital (it is a populated suburb of Jerusalem) plus some territorial exchanges corresponding to the demographic realities of the land and the allocation by Egypt of a vast territory in northern Sinai, intended to accommodate the descendants of refugees who have been held for too long in camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
This is a realistic plan, which would finally allow the two national aspirations to succeed without overlapping and thereby mitigate regional tensions. Prince Bin Slaman would have even told Abbas that he should accept or give way to a more pragmatic leader.
With this more realistic than ideological initiative, Saudi Arabia and the new US government are finally taking into account Israel's security needs as well as the need to help the Palestinians develop an independent economy in manageable territories. Is not realism on the ground the first quality that has failed all previous initiatives?
In the meantime, yes, the Arab street is in full revolt. Gaza has already sent some rockets into Israel, and the army repelled several violent demonstrations, leading, alas, reprisals causing a few dead and wounded.
It will therefore be necessary to wait for the pragmatism and realism of the Trump administration to spread, because there are many other problems, eminently more urgent, to be solved in the Middle East than the status of Jerusalem. Even if some use it as an excuse to escape reality.
And then, as long as Al Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, Europe and Iran continue to condemn, it certainly speaks loudly about President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel. The author is a French-Israeli novelist, journalist and documentary film maker. Born in Algiers, he had to flee his native country with his family in 1961, at the end of the French-Algerian war. Established in Paris, and later in New York, he graduated from Assas law school and studied counter-terrorism at IDC Herzliya. Since 2000, he produced and directed 13 documentaries on the Middle Conflict. He now lives in Tel Aviv.