Israel was created in 1948. Which means that in the conscious life of every baby boomer, Jerusalem has been Israel’s working capital, while every nation having diplomatic relations with the Jewish state has kept is embassy in Tel Aviv. That is, until now. In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs gives us his take on President Trump’s decision to change that.
People are going to die, Mr. President. They might be Arab protestors, they might be Israeli soldiers, they might be American diplomats. And they might just be bystanders, American or Israeli or Arab or otherwise, unwittingly ambushed in the eternal enmity of the Middle East. But some are going to die.
That seems like the inescapable outcome of your resolve to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Of course it has been the capital of the Jewish state since its birth, we already know that. And personally, I’m happy for the Israeli people. As the president said, Jerusalem is the home of Israel’s parliament, its prime minister, its supreme court. On every working trip I ever took to Israel, I accomplished everything from credentials to interviews with government leaders in Jerusalem.
But while President Trump called his decision a “recognition of reality,” let me tell you about the reality on the ground. Or maybe you should hear it from Jordan’s King Abdullah, arguably the most pro-Western ruler in the whole region: “The adoption of this resolution will have serious implications for security and stability in the Middle East.”
A longtime leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization. a woman I used to deal with named Hanan Ashrawi who in the past has been a genuine partner in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, calls Trump’s declaration “the total annihilation of any chances of peace.” And a recipe for bloodshed, which gets us closer to the ground itself. “To people who are looking for an excuse,” she says, “this would be a ready-made excuse.”
Sure enough, the Gaza-based terror group Hamas has urged Palestinians to “incite an uprising in Jerusalem.” That, Mr. President, is the reality. One Hamas heavyweight warned of the president inflaming anti-American animus. It’s hard to argue with his logic when he says, “I don’t understand why he wants to antagonize over a billion Muslims around the world.”
So the reality is, while Israel is America’s most democratic and dependable ally in the Middle East, we might win a moral victory but ultimately enfeeble the partner we want to help. Because by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, we are squandering the peacemaking capital of the United States. You want to strike what you’ve called “the ultimate deal,” Mr. President? How can you possibly negotiate that deal now, after you’ve only deepened the doubts people already had about our incorruptible impartiality as a broker of peace? If a peace pact is the ultimate deal, you might have just erected the ultimate roadblock to achieving it.
It wasn’t going to be easy in the first place. For as long as I covered the attempts of several presidents to achieve peace, there were four so-called “core issues” that stood in the way, and the most emotionally charged of them all was ownership of Jerusalem. So now, instead of leaving it on the table as a do-or-die bargaining chip, we’re just handing it to one of the antagonists and blowing off the other?
Your own son-in-law, who you anointed as your Middle East negotiator, seems to understand the equation for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. “If we’re going to try and create more stability in the region as a whole,” he said just last weekend, “you have to solve this issue.” The point is, declaring that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, whether it’s true or not, doesn’t solve the issue. It exacerbates it. You said in your speech that keeping our embassy out of Jerusalem has put us “no closer to a lasting peace.” But antagonizing over a billion Muslims does?
What’s more, this isn’t going to open the floodgates for other influential countries to follow suit. All it’s going to do is give the disaffected an excuse to unleash more violence against us. And diminish our ability to serve as an honest broker. As King Abdullah said, it “will undermine the efforts of the American administration to resume the peace process.”
Of course I could be wrong about all this. Maybe the Palestinians will see what’s happened and decide to negotiate for half-a-loaf before the loaf is altogether gone. Maybe Israel will be so grateful to the president that they’ll make concessions on other issues if peace talks restart. But I wouldn’t bet a dime on any of that.
Every time I ever went to Jerusalem I could see why, clear back to the days of the Roman Empire and the Crusades, armies have fought to control it. It is the Holy City, sacred to Jews, to Muslims, and lest we forget, to Christians across the world. The reality is, it doesn’t really matter right now whose claim to Jerusalem as their capital is morally, historically, or just plain realistically right. The reality of President Trump’s declaration, although I hope I’m wrong, is that people are going to die. And peace is going to be even harder to pull off than before.