IVANKA TRUMP and Steve Mnuchin attend the inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem last year. .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed in the United States on October 23, 1995 to some fanfare as well as protests and it was quickly placed on the back burner to languish. The conservative Congress at the time knew all too well how the political system works and slipped in a hidden gem or poison depending on your perspective. The law required the move to Jerusalem but allowed the president the use of six-month waivers based on “national security” grounds. The waiver was used repeatedly by presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, so the law was never implemented although it remained on that pesky back burner. Then along came President Donald Trump, who also initially signed the six-month waiver, but he is his own man and a pragmatist before he is a politician.
On February 23, 2018, Trump announced that the US Embassy in Israel would move to Jerusalem. The US Embassy officially relocated to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018 on the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. It has been high drama on the world stage since with riots, people hurt or killed and condemnation from both the EU and UN. Support has been shown by Guatemala moving its embassy as well and Romania, Bulgaria, Paraguay, Slovakia and the Czech Republic being supportive to one degree or another. Austria, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic accepted Israel’s invitation to attend the US embassy event even though the EU officially boycotted the ceremony.
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel regardless of the location of anyone’s embassy. It is ultimately an empty gesture to pretend otherwise and for the United States to do so it merely maintains the stalemate that has been the status quo for decades and only benefits the Palestinian obstructionists. Ever the negotiator, Trump recognized it is better to fulfil his promise, move the embassy to Jerusalem and stir up the situation to see if the stalemate can be broken. As a result, it does appear that more options are on the table. National Security Advisor John Bolton has stated that a one-state solution is also a possibility that should be considered. Up until now, conventional wisdom dictated a two-state peace solution.
Celebrations and drama aside, the real importance of the move to Jerusalem is its impact on negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. An actual peace deal would stop the massive flow of money and international support to the Palestinians and reduce them to leadership of a small country where they would be expected to run the gauntlet of elections and actually provide results to an expectant civilian population. No one up until now figured out a way past the conundrum of making a peace deal look better than the status quo to the Palestinians.
Trump may have figured out a way forward and supporting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the concept of a one-state solution might be just enough to make something happen. Way better than doing nothing.
The writer, who retired as a senior operations officer and chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Operations, is a columnist and is often interviewed for Rebel Media in Canada and One American News Network in the United States. He founded the nonprofit organization Americans for Intelligence Reform and is a frequent guest speaker at universities and other events.
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