A view of the Western Wall plaza, the Dome of the Rock and the top of Al Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
There was no dancing in the streets Wednesday night in Jerusalem after Donald Trump made his historic announcement.
Maybe it was the raw, wintry weather, but unlike the horas that erupted after the United Nations voted to create a Jewish state with the Partition Plan on November 29, 1947, that led to the creation of Israel the following year, there didn’t seem to be any spontaneous expression of joy. Or maybe it was because MasterChef and The X Factor were both on at 9 p.m., an hour after Trump’s televised speech.
There was that flashy projection on the outside of the Old City walls with the Israeli and US flags, and of course the over-the-top Israel Hayom
front page on Thursday.
But aside from the expected ministerial-level blessings about the announcement, Israelis seems to go about their business, apparently unaffected by the declaration of a reality they’ve already been living in for 70 years – Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
“This seems like a taste of how they must have felt in 1948,” wrote an excited Jerusalem Post
staffer in an internal email. However, that was quickly doused by a less-enthusiastic response asking if the declaration was putting peace further and violence closer at hand.
Sending a WhatsApp to my tennis partner about our usual Friday morning game on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus, I darkly wrote: “9 a.m. as usual, before the riots start?” An old college friend whose post-college daughter is spending the year teaching English in the country sent a message overnight saying, “We’re obviously concerned about [Rebecca] in the aftermath of this Trump proclamation about Jerusalem.
There’s a lot of coverage over here about how it might spur a violent response. My wife and I would appreciate any thoughts you can share. We’re just anxious parents.”
I attempted to sound like I knew what I was talking about, even though nobody knows what will really ensue – suggesting/hoping that the Palestinian reaction wouldn’t be on a sustained “intifada” level, and if it was, predicting that it would pass relatively quickly. My advice was that as long as Rebecca didn’t plan any excursions to Palestinian West Bank cities and monitored the situation in Jerusalem, if she was visiting there, she would be fine.
But who knows what will happen now? Pundits were aplenty, questioning Trump’s timing of his announcement and warning that he would be to blame if bloodshed results. European leaders joined Arab leaders and cautioned that the region could blow up in violence, but curiously, there didn’t seem to be any calls for a restrained, thoughtful nonviolent response from the Palestinian side.
A case of wishful thinking self-fulfilled prophecy so they can finger wave and say “I told you so” to Trump, or is it more a display of latent racism toward the Palestinians for assuming that they don’t know any other way to express their frustration than with rocks, knives and bombs? Here’s hoping that calm heads prevail, and that the Palestinian leadership will see the declaration as an opening – something Trump hinted at during his speech. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, whether or not a Palestinian state arises in the future, but Trump left open the possibility that it could also serve as a capital of a Palestinian state.
Taken on its own, the announcement seems to just sit there by itself like a lead balloon of text appearing above a cartoon character. How is this going to forward peace or worse, prevent a backward slide? But maybe something is afoot – with Vice President Mike Pence on the way next week, the Saudis giving lip service to condemning the announcement but perhaps playing a big role behind the scenes, and even Mahmoud Abbas allegedly being told by Trump during their phone conversation this week that there’ll be something for the Palestinians in the near future.
But can we get to that next stage without it being derailed by the third intifada? The next few days will be telling.
Me? I’ll be out on the tennis courts Friday with the Mount of Olives and the Old City in the background. I don’t need a president to acknowledge that I’m in the capital of Israel.
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