Israel's Former Ambassador to Jordan: With Respect, Prince Hassan, You're Wrong on Trump

Trump's Jerusalem declaration did not violate any U.N. resolutions, nor did it change longstanding U.S. policy. It simply stated facts. Indeed, even Jordanian ambassadors present their credentials to Israel's president – in Jerusalem

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Protesters hold a portrait of US President Donald Trump and wave the Palestinian flag during a rally against his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Amman, Jordan. December 8, 2017
Protesters' posters call U.S. President Donald Trump 'The ugly face of Nazism' at a rally against his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Amman, Jordan. December 8, 20Credit: AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI
Oded Eran
Robbie Sabel

We greatly appreciate Prince Hassan of Jordan’s willingness to enter into a public dialogue in reaction to President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Move Plays Politics With International Law - and Our Lives.)

All Israelis, we believe, share his world outlook when he writes that "Jerusalem has a religious and heritage status encompassing the three religions", "the future of Jerusalem can only be resolved through peace negotiations", and the Prince’s reference to "the right of all believers to be able to worship freely in Jerusalem at their respective holy places."

Israel, of course, also remains committed to its undertaking in the Israel-Jordan peace treaty to "respect the special role of the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem."

Protesters shout slogans during a rally in Amman, Jordan after Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Dec. 8, 2017Credit: AP Photo/Raad Adayleh

Respectfully, however, we beg to differ with Prince Hassan's criticism of Trump's declaration.

Reading the declaration carefully reveals that there is no dissonance between the principles enumerated by Prince Hassan, and the Trump declaration. There is no violation of (the non-binding) U.N resolutions and no deviation from traditional U.S. policies.

Two key sentences stand out in the President's statement. First, that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital is an acknowledgement of the obvious facts, and then, that, "We [the U.S.] are not taking a position of any final status issue, including the specific boundaries of Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders."

President Trump carefully refrained from making any declaration as to the status of East Jerusalem or of the Muslim holy places. He did not even refer to a "unified Jerusalem".

The declaration simply recognized the reality that Jerusalem, without defining its territorial extent, is Israel’s capital. This is a reality expressed by Jerusalem being the seat of the Israeli president, parliament and government. Heads of states, including those of Arab states and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, have been received by their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem. New foreign ambassadors, among them those from Jordan and Egypt, have presented their credentials to Israel's president, in Jerusalem.

Jordanian police walk over the Israeli flag painted on the road as they guard a protest against President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Amman, Jordan. December 8, 2017Credit: REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

While we are not making here a recommendation for its acceptance by Israel, it is noteworthy that the 2002 Arab League Peace initiative makes a Palestinian claim for "East" Jerusalem, implicitly thereby recognizing Israel sovereignty over West Jerusalem. The Israel - Jordan Peace Treaty contains a Jordanian reservation as to the status of "any territories that came under Israeli military control in 1967." Again, this implicitly recognizes Israel sovereignty over West Jerusalem.

As regards the UN, in the last nearly 70 years the only resolutions passed concerning Jerusalem referred to the status of "East" Jerusalem. In this period, no UN Resolution has questioned Israel sovereignty over West Jerusalem, or of Jerusalem as being Israel’s capital.

Although no state calls for physically dividing Jerusalem, the status of East Jerusalem and the Muslim holy places may indeed be a subject for future negotiations. The subject of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, however, was determined 70 ago and is not disputed. Hence President Trump’s declaration was not violating any international rule or norm and was, as declared, reflecting a legal and physical reality.

Dr. Oded Eran was Israel’s ambassador to Jordan (1997-2000), ambassador to the European Union (2002-2007) and head of Israel's negotiations team with the Palestinians (1999-2000).  

Professor Robbie Sabel was Legal Advisor to Israel's Foreign Ministry (1985-1993), during which he was an Israeli representative to the peace talks with Egypt and Jordan and to the post-Madrid conference talks with the Palestinians.

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