Israel's state-owned television channel broadcast a report this week about the historic reenactment of the British forces’ entering Jerusalem in December 1917 and the Turks’ surrender. Relatives of General Allenby, commander of the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force, and his second in command John Shea, were invited to the event.
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Allenby and Shea were the ones who received the Ottoman governor’s letter of surrender and the keys to the city – from Jerusalem’s Muslim mayor Hussein al-Husseini.
“And lo, exactly 100 years later,” reporter Yuval Agassi raised his voice dramatically, when on the screen suddenly appeared President Donald Trump, announcing the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But what exactly was the “lo” here?
It seems that Agassi and Kan were echoing some religious narrative of the prime minister’s making, according to which “we,” the Jews and (British) Christians, fought together in the same camp against the Muslims. In this alternative history, the move Allenby set in motion by conquering Jerusalem from the Turks, was completed by Trump with its official “handing over” to us, the Jews.
It’s interesting that other historic events have become almost invisible – the Jewish community’s struggle against the British, establishing the state, Israel’s wars, even conquering Jerusalem by the “Israelis” Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin. What they’re broadcasting now is the big picture: the Jews and members of Judaism’s daughter religion – the Christians – fighting together against Islam.
Perhaps this is the real reason behind Netanyahu’s relaxed demeanor in a clip that showed him this week chatting with uncharacteristic ease with reporters and MKs in the Knesset cafeteria. As far as he’s concerned, finally, after many years of litigation, the historic “restriction” had been erased from the property deed that the Jews “inherited” from the Christians. Exactly 100 years after the previous owners, the Muslims, had lost their proverbial ownership of Jerusalem; it was given to us legally.
So it’s understandable why the Palestinians viewed the United States as taking sides in the conflict immediately after Trump’s declaration. However, the Jews aren’t the only ones. The Palestinians have also sinned in looking back too much. Abbas has been leading for years a diplomatic effort to rewind history’s tape – first to 1967, then to 1948, then to the UN resolution on the Partition Plan for Palestine and then to the Balfour Declaration and so on.
But this is a track doomed to collapse into a black hole from which there is no way out. Instead they should focus on the future, realize that there’s no point demanding, as Abbas is doing now, that the world stop recognizing Israel; it simply won’t happen. Instead they should concentrate on demanding from the world in general, and first of all from Europe, to recognize the Palestinian state, although its borders cannot be determined yet.
The amorphous American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could be seen as a model for extracting the Palestinians from the entanglement of having to determine their borders as a necessary condition for recognition. After all, Trump said, “We are not taking a position on any final status issues including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem”
What, then, is stopping Trump, and other states, from officially recognizing the State of Palestine, whose capital is Al-Quds, with a similar clarification: “We’re not taking a position on any final status issues – including the specific boundaries of the Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem and the occupied territories?”
If the United States can recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, on its own accord and without any diplomatic settlement or international agreement, why don’t all the two-state solution supporters declare with the same pomposity their recognition of the State of Palestine?
Trump has provided the outline: “Today we finally acknowledge the obviousThis is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.” Is there really, in reality, any other solution than two states for two peoples? Isn’t this solution also obvious?