Opinion

You Really Blew It on Jerusalem, America

Everyone knew it wasn't true, but by losing its own facade of neutrality, the U.S. has lost a strategic asset on the world stage

President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum recognizing U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, White House in Washington, D.C. Dec. 6, 2017
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

“My heart goes out to people whom I don’t know, who will die tonight,“ says the Lebanese singer Fairuz in the Arab musical “Long Life.” That’s what I’m feeling since President Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. In the musical, Fairuz expected people to die over a plan to steal across the border and seize control of the government. Many like me sadly expected the same due to the decision of the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

At this writing, the Palestinian casualty toll in the wake of the decision has been five killed and hundreds injured, but, as they say, the night is still young. My heart not only goes out to people who have died and been injured and who will die and be injured. My heart also goes out to those who, in a flash, have become a target of incitement of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is surrounded by a group that doesn’t put Ali Baba’s 40 thieves to shame. Lieberman wants to get rid of the Arabs in the Triangle region of northern Israel. Between us, that’s progress. Earlier he had threatened to chop off the heads of his opponents (the Arabs, of course).

Between one criminal investigation and the next of Benjamin Netanyahu and from one entanglement and the next of President Trump’s advisers over ties with Russia, we get this declaration about Jerusalem. What does Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, think is lacking in Jerusalem’s current situation? After all, no one visiting Israel boycotts Jerusalem. Anyone prominent pays a visit to the Knesset, to the Prime Minister’s Office or the President’s Residence. De facto, everyone recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They just ask for one small thing – a deferral of official recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital until a peace agreement is achieved that will placate the Palestinians regarding their own capital, which will be in East Jerusalem.

On the other hand, the official Arab world has already been acting publicly against the Palestinians. If things can be summed up at this point, this is the unwelcome result: That for the $110 billion that Trump received from his hosts in weapons sales on his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, the Arabs accepted Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

One can only imagine how things will look when Saudi military procurement reaches $400 billion. Afterward they’ll say that the Arab states are the Palestinians’ pillar of support. It would be more accurate to call the leaders of the Arab countries the enemies of the Palestinian people. That was also true in 1948, but then it was considered shameful. Now it no longer is.

But Israel’s best and brightest also have a part in this play. In response to the Palestinians’ refusal to meet with Vice President Mike Pence on his upcoming visit to the region, Israeli TV commentator Roni Daniel declared that the Palestinians “have never missed an opportunity to miss something that was right.” So as Daniel would have it, even if the Israelis or their American friends spit in the face of the Palestinians, that’s considered an opportunity that the Palestinians should jump at. Even if they were to urinate on them, the Palestinians should welcome the rain.

Nevertheless, despite the darkness, as with every spell of darkness, it is followed by a new day. Last week the United States became an isolated North Korea of sorts. All 14 members of the UN Security Council other than the United States itself denounced Trump’s declaration. It has been quite some time since the Palestinians chalked up such a brilliant diplomatic achievement.

The Americans have lost a strategic asset. Up to now, it pretended neutrality, even though everyone knew it wasn’t true. After Trump’s declaration, they have shown their Saudi and Egyptian allies to be the Americans’ submissive slaves. All of a sudden, the Palestinians have discovered that the world is brighter without the Americans. And the White House has yet to learn that in the future, its decision on Jerusalem will be a source of endless regret.