Move the embassy to J’lem or the consulate to Ramallah

If deference to a final agreement is to be considered credible, it must be applied not only regarding Israeli claims to the city, but to Palestinian claims as well.

January 7, 2018 21:30
2 minute read.
 US AND Israel flags displayed in Jerusalem after Washington recognized Jerusalem as the capital.

US AND Israel flags displayed in Jerusalem after Washington recognized Jerusalem as the capital.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Without taking a position on Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his intention to move the US Embassy there, it’s easy to see that some reactions – such as from the UN General Assembly – are displays of hypocrisy.

While the mission of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv is directed toward Israel, the US also has a diplomatic mission directed toward the Palestinians.

The American mission to the Palestinians, like those of several other countries, is already based in Jerusalem.

While it is difficult to view this policy as unbiased, the fact that other countries house missions to the Palestinians in west Jerusalem is even harder to reconcile, especially when those countries claim to be neutral regarding the region.

It is often assumed that a final Israeli-Palestinian agreement will necessitate dividing the city as it had been prior to the 1967 Six Day War, with certain adjustments. Israel, it is assumed, will retain west Jerusalem as from before the war, while east Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian control from 1948 until 1967, would serve as the Palestinian capital.

The General Assembly resolution passed on December 21 assumes that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should only come pending a final Israeli-Palestinian agreement. It invoked Security Council Resolution 478, which explicitly bans housing diplomatic missions in the city.

Diplomatic missions in Jerusalem violate 478. But while Trump’s declaration has been met with hysteria, the missions to the Palestinians in Jerusalem have been received with silence. In fact, Turkey, one of the primary countries responsible for measures taken at the UN countering Trump’s declaration, just proclaimed Jerusalem to be the Palestinian capital and announced its intention to inaugurate an embassy to the Palestinians in the city, while its mission to Israel will remain in Tel Aviv.

If deference to a final agreement is to be considered credible, it must be applied not only regarding Israeli claims to the city, but to Palestinian claims as well. Either remove all diplomatic personnel from Jerusalem or house both the diplomatic missions to Israel and those to the Palestinians in the city.

Rather than express a principled position, much of the opposition to Trump’s declaration reflected a failure to recognize the Jewish connection to the territory and the right of the Jewish people to a nation-state in its ancient homeland.

This sentiment does more than perpetuate the conflict between Jews and Muslims in the region; it predates Israel’s taking control of east Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank taken in a defensive war in 1967, and it predated the establishment of the modern Jewish state in 1948.

The Middle East is a highly volatile region. Unnecessary interference in areas of conflict should be avoided.

But if diplomatic missions are expressions of how various bodies believe the region should be divided, or if they are abstentions from that controversy, then that must be reflected in missions to Israel and those to the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, it seems most nations are more concerned about offending Palestinian sentiments than they are about Jewish ones. Those who are not yet ready to recognize any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should remember that the Palestinian capital is Ramallah.

Baruch Stein was raised in the United States and now lives in Jerusalem. His columns have appeared in media outlets in both the US and Israel.

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