Opinion: Recognizing the obvious

December 6, 2017 13:04

A declaration on Jerusalem is not the be-all and end-all of the peace process.

3 minute read.

Palestinians walk past the Dome of Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, on J

Palestinians walk past the Dome of Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, on January 13, 2017. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)

“You ought to let the Jews have Jerusalem; it was they who made it famous,” Winston Churchill is said to have told a British diplomat in 1955.

The United States on Monday missed its own deadline to delay the transfer of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite the general expectation that President Trump would sign the waiver, as he and his predecessors have for over two decades. While some experts, including former US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, doubt that this means the waiver won’t eventually be invoked, it perhaps reflects a deeper sense that the President indeed has something in store for us.

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Mr. Trump still has an opportunity to remind a closely-attentive world of America’s recognition of Israel’s obvious capital in his long-awaited speech today. Israelis are seeking this simple act of recognition at a time when their country’s very future – not to mention its age-old ties to Jerusalem – is continually cast in doubt by the region’s tyrants.

Once US recognition has been extended, it will be easier for the Administration to relocate its most senior representative to Jerusalem, and finally rectify a historical wrong. And it is no secret that once the United States acknowledges what most Jews across the globe believe, many of Israel’s natural allies – and perhaps some of the non-conventional ones recently acquired – are expected to follow suit.

Israelis have known no other capital. Although Jerusalemites have borne the brunt of terror attacks over time, present day included, no other city has served as the country’s political heart. While the Declaration of Independence was signed in Tel Aviv and for a brief period our institutions located there, this was born of necessity; while Jerusalem was under siege by the rejectionist Arab armies, our country’s provisional government continued its state building from the future commercial metropolis.

The unwavering significance of Jerusalem to the Jews dates back 3,000 years. Soon after independence, all branches of the Israeli government – legislative, executive and judicial – were established in Jerusalem permanently. Here you will find the President’s Residence, the Supreme Court & High Court of Justice, the Prime Minister’s Office, ministries and Parliament, as well as the tombs of Israel’s Founding Fathers, including the late Shimon Peres.

President Trump must not be deterred by threats of violence on the part of those who resort to it routinely. Consider that four Israelis were stabbed last April at the Tel Aviv Promenade by a Palestinian who, ironically, was in Israel as part of a coexistence workshop: his murderous act was certainly not instigated by developments in Jerusalem. Nor was the killing of American student Taylor Force near the same location last year. Terrorism is reflective of a severely deformed values system and denying Israel’s right to choose its own capital for fear of more violence merely rewards and encourages such attacks.

There are few issues on which most Israeli political parties in Israel agree, but Jerusalem is one. MPs from Labor to the Jewish Home have made clear their desire to see the capital city finally accorded international recognition. Support for moving the embassy crosses party lines in the United States too: a decision by President Trump to recognize Israel’s capital will draw support from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Mr. Trump must not submit to threats of violence or to Palestinian intransigence. The Palestinian Authority does not have veto rights over Israel’s relations with America or with any other country, nor can it prevent the reparation of this historical wrong.

A declaration on Jerusalem is not the be-all and end-all of the peace process. The door to negotiations is still wide open. Nor should proponents of a divided city get their knickers in a twist. Such a declaration merely anchors the conversation in a new sphere where parties can have a discussion based on reality. Afterwards, the parties will continue to explore alternatives for the future -- East, West and all the rest.

The author is the press associate at The Israel Project, an organization dedicated to informing the media and public conversation about Israel and the Middle East. She holds a Masters’ in Conflict Resolution from Tel Aviv University.

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