(December 8, 2017 / JNS) By Sarah N. Stern/JNS
Dec. 6, 2017, will be forever remembered as a day when a historic wrong had been righted. When President Donald Trump made his long-anticipated announcement that the U.S. not only recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but that he will take steps towards moving the American embassy there, he accomplished something remarkable—he brought some sorely needed reality therapy to the Palestinians.
Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, and finally, after 2,000 years, we have come home to our ancient homeland, where we are no longer passive agents in history, but free and active participants in determining our history. Yet Israel has been the one nation in the world that, up until Dec. 6, had been denied the freedom to choose its own capital and have it recognized by the international community, and to have the nations of the world respect and honor that decision.
Of the 190 nations with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations, up until this week, Israel had been the only one whose capital had lacked recognition from America.
Contrary to what some of the State Department types have argued, this is not a concession to Israel. This is American law, and has been so since 1995. Yes, prior presidents have taken advantage of a presidential waiver in the law, arguing that it is “not the right time.”
According to these stale State Department types, it is never the right time.
They argue that it will “destroy the peace process.” One might ask, “What peace process?”
The truth is that there has not been any peace process to speak of for at least a year. The latest round of official Israeli-Palestinian talks, held from 2013-2014, broke down under Secretary of State John Kerry because the Palestinian Authority (PA) refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, stated in December 2016 that recognizing Israel for what it is, a Jewish state, was “unacceptable.”
If Trump’s statement is going to cause mass violence, it is not the fault of the U.S. nor of Israel. It is the fault of the Palestinians, who have not even recognized pre-1967 Israel in their textbooks, who teach that all of pre-1967 Israel will one day become “Palestine,” and who have television programs indoctrinating children that Haifa, Tel Aviv, and west Jerusalem will all someday be theirs.
On Nov. 29, 1947, prior to President Harry Truman recognizing Israel at the United Nations, people had told Truman that the recognition would only lead to mass rioting. What would have happened if Truman had listened?
The Arabs and Palestinians have always used the threat of violence as a negotiating tool. The longer we cower to the threat of violence, the more we reinforce that as a legitimate tool of negotiations.
Either we have a policy and a law, or we do not. We should not change our policies to appease the most violent participants on the world stage. It simply does not work, but rather begets more violence.
By using appeasement, we do not gain the respect of the international community, nor of the Muslim and Arab world. As Osama bin Laden had said, “When someone sees a weak horse, and a strong horse, it is natural to bet on the strong horse.”
Those who argue otherwise are engaging in what the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan called the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” They are simply being patronizing to the Palestinians.
What message does that send to the Palestinian leadership when there are government spokesmen around the globe saying that we expect the Palestinians to engage in violence? We are giving them a pretense for violence and bloodshed, which eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The Palestinians need to learn that no matter what dangerous illusions of conquest they are teaching their children, Israel will never cede its capital of Jerusalem—not after 3,000 years of history.
And they need to learn, once and for all, that Israel is here to stay.
In this way, Trump’s Dec. 6 speech was a sorely needed dose of reality therapy for the Palestinians.
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), which describes itself as an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.