Editorial

A Poisoned Gift

Violating the status quo in Jerusalem, like expanding the settlement enterprise, is moving Israel further from the only possible solution, the two-state solution

The Israeli flag flutters in front of the Dome of the Rock mosque and the city of Jerusalem, December 1, 2017.
The Israeli flag fluttering in front of the Dome of the Rock mosque and the city of Jerusalem.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could have been joyful news for Israel. But it’s no coincidence that Israel is the only country in the world whose capital hasn’t been recognized by the international community. Jerusalem’s status remains a core issue in the negotiations for a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

In this sense, disrupting the status quo in the world’s most explosive city is a poisoned gift to the Israeli and Arab peace camp. It’s hard to understand how such a move fits with Trump’s declarations about his desire to bring about peace in the region, a feat his predecessors in the White House failed to achieve.

Trump boasted that he didn’t follow in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who did not change U.S. policy toward Jerusalem. But previous administrations’ refusal to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital did not stem from hostility to Israel or excessive sympathy for the Muslims. These administrations heeded the advice of the National Security Council and Israeli defense officials, who warned that a policy change regarding Jerusalem would sabotage the peace process.

The decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital plays into the hands of radical Arab groups, which don’t miss an opportunity to portray the two-state solution as deception, and portray the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab states that recognize Israel, as collaborators with the enemies of Islam.

The joy of right-wing and centrist leaders is shortsighted. Violating the status quo in Jerusalem, like expanding the settlement enterprise in the West Bank, is moving Israel further from the only possible solution – the two-state solution – and increasing its isolation in the world. Woe is the country that needs the support of a leader like Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

If the prime minister were a responsible leader, he wouldn’t have called on other countries to follow the United States and the Philippines. Instead, he should ask Trump to take steps to advance negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, part of which would consist of recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and East Jerusalem as the Palestinian state’s capital.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel