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Let Trump Recognize Jerusalem Already

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Israeli flags fly near the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, December 5, 2017.
Israeli flags fly near the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, December 5, 2017.Credit: Thomas Coex / AFP

The president of the United States would do well to announce that he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and even explain when exactly he plans to transfer the U.S. Embassy to the capital of the Jewish state. If this announcement causes a storm in the Middle East, brings the Palestinians onto the streets, “destroys the chances for a peace process,” as the Egyptian president and the Jordanian king are warning – so what?

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It would be preferable for Donald Trump to be held responsible for the disintegration of the process, rather than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s preferable for Washington, which has always behaved navely and self-righteously, to assume responsibility for the diplomatic fallout that stems from Trump’s determination to close the deal of the century.

The president should also explain which Jerusalem he’s referring to. Is it the one that includes the “new district” in which the Shoafat and Kafr Aqab refugee camps will be buried, amid the plans to annex Ma’aleh Adumim, Har Homa, Givat Ze’ev and other neighborhoods, or without it?

>> Jerusalem for dummies: Why the world doesn’t recognize it as Israel’s capital

Let him finally draw Jerusalem’s borders as they’ll be recognized by the United States, so at least we’ll know what the city’s final borders are. And even if he announces that he recognizes all the city’s areas, both the original ones and the annexations, as Israel’s eternal capital, he’ll end one of the hollow diplomatic battles that have been waged in Israel since the Six-Day War. Trump will decide, Israel will pick up the pieces.

And what exactly is the source of all the fear and commotion? Did anyone manage to solve the conflict during the decades when Jerusalem wasn’t recognized as Israel’s capital? Did any U.S. president propose recognition of Jerusalem in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the territories, or even only  for stopping settlement construction? Nothing.

Let him fearlessly declare Jerusalem Israel’s capital. That would be one of the most important decisions in Israel’s relations with the United States and the entire world. It would finally be proved that the United States really is able to decide instead of the countries mired in the conflict – and not care what the world says. A classic move by Trump.

But remember that a president who pisses against the wind is preparing the way for each of his successors who wants to try his hand at the conflict. Because if Trump can get away with thumbing his nose at an American diplomatic tradition, what will prevent the next president (and even Trump himself) from making other policy-changing decisions; for example, forcing withdrawal from the West Bank?

Recognition of Jerusalem will also grant Trump the right to demand that Israel pay the usual price in such deals. After all, he has said he wants to achieve a deal and not hand out gifts. So if right-wing Israel and its radical government see recognition of Jerusalem as a gift, they might discover that it’s a gift that disappoints, even if not immediately.

For Israelis, recognition of Jerusalem won’t change a thing. Either way, Israelis consider it the capital of the country, even without recognition by the United States.

But if I were a right-winger, I would plead with Trump to leave Jerusalem alone, because the price tag that might be attached to recognition isn’t worth it. If he’s a true friend of Israel, let him remain in the traditional American position of an onlooker and not make waves. That’s the position the right likes in every U.S. president, so he won’t make us pay the necessary compensation for this bribery called recognition of Jerusalem.

On the other hand, Jerusalem is worthy of recognition by the United States and the world as Israel’s capital. It represents the essence of the internal Israeli conflict. The country is torn not only between Arabs and Jews, but also between the Jews themselves, between the ultra-Orthodox and the secular, the right and the left, a detached government and a frustrated public, the crushing of values against human rights and liberalism. There’s no clearer symbol than Jerusalem of the disintegration of the Jewish state.

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