President Donald Trump, near an Israeli flag at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
While the international media is covering the controversy about the US president’s decision to recognize my country’s capital, Jerusalem, the reaction in Israel is closer to indifference.
We understand the implications and are happy that a Western leader said what we already knew to be true, but how can you expect Israelis to jump with excitement every time the West says something about our country? We don’t need foreign leaders to tell us what our capital is and frankly, neither do the Palestinians.
The Middle East is in turmoil. In Syria, half a million people have been murdered in the bloodiest civil war of the century; in Egypt, constant terrorist attacks are the new normal; in Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Lebanon, Iran and even Jordan, violence, infighting and terrorism continue. The list of human rights violations and examples of minority oppression are seemingly endless, yet no statements from the West have had any real impact on the reality of the situation in the Middle East.
Which begs the question, why is a statement by the US president about Jerusalem getting so much attention? Both President Donald Trump and former president Barack Obama made controversial statements about the Middle East, but the response was never like it is today, either in the Arab world or in the press.
The mainstream media coverage of the US administration’s statement has been centered entirely around how the decision to move the embassy and recognize Jerusalem is “killing the peace process.” However, I am convinced that there is no peace process between the Palestinians and Israel, at least not since 2014 when the Palestinian leadership blew up the direct negotiations. So what “peace talks” are at risk here? If anything, the fact that this statement brings up the issue of peace talks is a positive step for the future. The majority of President Trump’s controversial statements pass through the media after a few news cycles, but the Jerusalem statement is so serious that it is “destroying” all hopes for peace and a future state of Palestine? The fact of the matter is that the Palestinians do not need President Trump or any foreign leader to tell them where their capital is, just as we Israelis do not need this validation. If they want Jerusalem to be their capital they can sit down at the negotiating table and discuss a peaceful resolution. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority is using President Trump’s statement as yet another excuse to reject peace and play the victim.
The Palestinian leadership and the Arab League that’s backing them have said no to every peace offer made by Israel, even the most generous ones, yet they still claim to be helpless victims in this conflict. They still call for international support as an “oppressed people” and that “all hope is lost,” but how oppressed can they be when they refuse to even hold peace negotiations, repeatedly? Israeli leaders have stated that they will be among the first to recognize an independent state of Palestine, but Palestinian leaders continue to refuse any peace talks, with an endless list of excuses and demands.
One can’t help but wonder: do the Palestinian leaders not want a solution? How hopeless can they be when in 2008 they said no to an offer to establish their own state? Prime minister Ehud Olmert offered a near total withdrawal from the West Bank and land swaps equivalent to 5.8% of the West Bank, along with a link to the Gaza Strip, all to be part of Palestine. The Palestinian leaders said no. Again.
So while President Trump’s statements are correct both morally and factually, you will have to excuse us Israelis for not reacting to the US president’s statement with the hysteria (positive or negative) that the Arab world has responded with – as well as the international community and the media.
Trump’s statement is neither the thing that makes Jerusalem our capital nor the thing that prevents peace for the Palestinians, and the Palestinian leaders know that full well. Once again, we see that the Arab League and the Palestinian leaders are committed to rejecting every peace offer and blaming others for why they cannot negotiate with Israel.
Just as Israel declared an independent state in 1948 with tentative borders on the basis of the UN partition plan, so too can the Palestinians – without any grandiose statements from the president of the United States. It is time for the Palestinians to start accepting responsibility for their own self-determination. Pending peace negotiations, I’m ready to recognize a Palestine – are you, PA President Mahmoud Abbas?
The author is a writer, public speaker and strategic communications consultant from Tel Aviv.