Part V: An Assessment of Trump’s Disruptive Diplomacy using Jerusalem

Part V: An Assessment of Trump’s Disruptive Diplomacy using Jerusalem

 

by

 

Howard Adelman

 

The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, leaving the borders to be defined through mutual negotiations, is likely neither to serve as a stimulus to put the negotiations back on track nor lead to widespread violence and the breakout of a Third Intifada. Why? Because there is no real peace process to disrupt. The recognition is symbolic and changes virtually nothing on the ground. It may bury the false idea that America has been neutral, but since the prospect for a two-state solution at this time has been highly unlikely, what had been squandered by Trump’s pronouncement?

Only noble purposes and noble intentions.

 

How do I explain and evaluate the Trump initiative? I believe rationalism, whether in a realist or a constructivist format, provides the foundation for the structure and wording of the initiative that was fundamentally irrational, founded on both the madness and stupidity of the individual making the announcement while being masked by sentiment and a patina of rationality.

Because of the lack of specificity, many ordinary Palestinians are sure to interpret the U.S. announcement as dismissing their historical, political, and cultural ties to Jerusalem and disputing their right to independence and self-determination. In their eyes, it condones Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 and implies that the city is solely Israeli.

“Palestinians, especially of the younger generation, have been questioning the feasibility of a two-state solution for some time. This is a generation that came of age during the second intifada and watched its land swallowed up by settlements and the separation wall as the years slipped by. Young men and women witnessed their own policemen arrest fellow countrymen at the behest of their occupier, while leaders placated them with empty words and slogans. They’re done playing this game.” But will they rise up or become more resigned to their fate or respond with a mixture of both?

“If there is a silver lining to Trump’s announcement, it does provide clarity and a unifying objective for Palestinians. Last summer, a wave of civil disobedience by Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line forced Israel to give up on its unilateral measures regarding Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif compound (also known as the Temple Mount), which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque. The PA had no say in the matter; religious leaders took their cues from ordinary Palestinians when they rallied for support. These events showed ordinary Palestinians that they have some power to change what’s happening on the ground: they can rally, strategize, and mobilize. And with a vision for a one-state solution unimpeded by a sham peace process, that goal may finally gain traction to make a new reality seems possible.”

However, will that even be a greater illusion than fixating on the corpse of a dead peace process? One of the effects of disruptive diplomacy, whatever the interpretation of the underlying motives, is that it fosters other illusions. Anything seems possible – unification of the land of Israel under Israeli hegemony or driving the Jews into the sea and establishing a Palestinian state that excludes Jews.

Given the differences in explaining and justifying disruptive diplomacy, different and opposite outcomes are envisioned. I, on the other hand, am a terrible prophet. I sometimes slip into prognosticating about the future, but I am usually more wrong than I am right. Disruptive diplomacy makes prediction even more difficult. I do not know what the short term or eventual outcome will be. I have neither a crystal ball nor is my ear tuned to God’s will. I can only offer analysis that perhaps confuses as much as it clarifies.

Let me summarize that analysis. Supporters of realist diplomacy, constructivist diplomacy or some combination thereof have been mildly supportive or mildly critical and hoped to shape Trump’s disruptive diplomacy into a realistic form. This began with the creative nuancing of the announcement, but one which readily revealed its contradictions and inadequacies.

There are a number of givens:

  1. When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and initiated the process of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, he severed seven decades of American policy.
  2. On the other hand, he recognized a reality – that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, a recognition of a capital denied no other country, a recognition that destroyed a long-held fiction that the city might not be Israel’s capital even though the Knesset, the Supreme Court, government ministries, including the foreign ministry, were all located in that capital.
  3. However, in refusing to define the borders of the city that Trump recognized as that capital, in the name of absolute clarity he left open the possibility that those borders were subject to negotiation just as he seemed to foreclose the possibility of the U.S. acting as a neutral mediator in such negotiations, signaled by omitting to reference any Palestinian claims to the city.
  4. While Trump claimed that the initiative reflected “the best interests of the United States of America,” this seemed to be part of the camouflage imposed by his realist sycophants but lacked any substance since there was no evident national interest served in giving that recognition at this time; at the same time, the move alienated virtually all of America’s allies and partners, and sent America’s enemies on a chest-pounding victory dance since the pronouncement demonstrably omitted any reference to Palestinian claims and revealed gross incompetence.

“Populism thrives when politics become about symbols rather than substance.” Ivan Krastev

  1. When the domestic political interests were so apparent behind the initiative – offering a quid quo pro to wealthy Jewish supporters of a right persuasion, catering to his evangelical Christian base, fulfilling a promise, seeking an initiative with a built-in legacy, providing a distraction from the Mueller inquiry and counterbalancing Obama’s failure to veto a UN resolution which provided a new, retrograde and realistically irrelevant reference point for negotiations – the disconnect and incongruence between realism in international affairs and catering to a political domestic constituency has never been more apparent.
  2. Though Trump used the rhetoric that the initiative would “advance the peace process,” those were now empty words which simply drove a stake into an already dead or, at the very least, comatose peace effort while significantly widening the chasm between the initiative and the supposed goal of giving new momentum to the peace process.
  3. If the dispute was merely up to the parties involved, why was Trump acting as a pyromaniac at this time?
  4. The move was symbolic only, and this was both its great importance as well as revealing its inability to affect facts on the ground, except possibly to encourage Israel to create more facts on the ground given the gross disparity in power between the contending parties.

The potential impact of this disruptive diplomacy could portend radical change, but the change could add to the chaos, for disruptive diplomacy radically breaks with a tradition of predictability. Only one thing is clear to me – there is now a widespread recognition that the two-state solution needs to be buried while we wait, holding our breath, to watch what alternative will emerge from the ashes of that burnt offering, even while traditional realists continue to worship the conception as a living, viable option that for them is too important to cast aside though it no longer has any potency. Which is better – that idolatry or Trump’s smashing of idols?

Moderate Plaudits for Trump’s Moving the American Embassy Policy: Part II

Moderate Plaudits for Trump’s Moving the American Embassy Policy: Part II

by

Howard Adelman

“Whether motivated by the importance of preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, a concern for Israel’s and America’s relationships with key Arab partners, or a desire to cut ‘the ultimate deal,’ the new administration shows signs of investing heavily in Middle East peace negotiations. The president even assigned his own son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a potential peacemaker.” In such an interpretation, Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without predetermined borders had rational strategic goals: strengthening Israel, strengthening U.S.-Israeli ties and advancing the peace process towards an ultimate deal. Tomorrow I will consider the last goal and the technique seen as a method of achieving it – disruption. In this blog I want to analyze the positions of those who applaud the move as reasonable and strategic, and offer a rationale for its beneficence.

However, I begin this blog with other criticisms and caveats that, like the initiative, offered a more nuanced critical response, but without declaring the Trump initiative as stupid or rash or uncalled for or biased or as destroying the possibility of peace. American diplomats with a long history of engagement on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, such as Dennis Ross, who served the Bush administration as Director of Policy Planning in the State Department and as a special Middle East coordinator for Bill Clinton’s government, offered a mixture of approval and reservations about the initiative.

The reference point was always the passage by Congress in 1995 of legislation obligating a transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, legislation with large bipartisan support, but with the inclusion of the waiver allowing the president to delay the move for six months at a time if needed to secure American interests. Up until Trump’s announcement, all presidents, including Trump six months ago, had signed the waiver. This time, however, Trump signed the waiver with two caveats: a) practical measures were now to be initiated to arrange the move; and b) Jerusalem was being recognized as Israel’s capital, but with the important caveat that this in no way preempted the determination of borders or the control over holy sites.

Previously, the waiver had been signed “to prevent damage to ongoing efforts to negotiate a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Would such an initiative serve the pursuit of peace in the Middle East or undermine it? The signing of the waiver never meant that there was no recognition of “the centuries of history that link the Jewish people to the city.” The resolution of Congress sent a clear signal to those who wanted to delegitimize Jewish claims in Palestine more generally. However, there had also always existed practical administrative and security reasons for moving the embassy – convenience to American diplomats who must travel back and forth to Jerusalem all the time, the inadequate security in the existing Tel Aviv embassy, and the general perception that the U.S. does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The issue was when to take the initiative not whether, and under what qualifications. Would such an initiative be neutral or would it undermine America’s role as a useful arbitrator? Would it advance or impede the prospects for negotiations and peace? How would such a move fit in within this larger strategic goal? Would it enhance Israel’s willingness to make concessions or set back that possibility? Would it drive more Palestinians into a rejectionist corner or send a message that the U.S. tolerance for Palestinian procrastination was near its end? More specifically, would it give greater strength to Jared Kushner’s leadership on the question, propel it forward by signaling the possibility of further additional moves that would reinforce the Israeli government position, or drive the Palestinians and their supporters to distraction making them both unwilling to participate and/or accept America’s mediation efforts?

Supporters of the move asked for even more nuance and more statements of clarification. For supporters who approached the new position with qualms and qualifications, an embassy move must demonstrate that such an initiative would not prevent a Palestinian capital in the Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem from emerging through negotiations. It must explicitly and repeatedly be linked with an insistence that the initiative does not change the status quo at the city’s holy sites. U.S. statements should make even more explicit that the policy decision to move the embassy is not an endorsement of Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the entire city. These additional statements must make absolutely clear that the U.S. is committed to the status quo of the holy sites. Only when the initiative is followed by such reassurances can Muslim sensitivities about the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) be assuaged while Jewish sensitivities about the Western Wall are reassured.

Even if the prime message still lacked substance and was only symbolic, it had to state clearly and unequivocally that the negotiations could not have as a starting point the cease fire lines of 1967. Those were not borders. It had also to signal that a one state solution was not in the offing and that only a two-state solution was and would be on the table, but one which offered the prospect of a continuing diminution in that state, its power and geographical reach. At the same time, Israel had to be sent a message that it too could not envision a one state solution including all of historic Israel and Palestine and, thus, that there was no alternative to continuing to substitute facts on the ground as an alternative to negotiations in that direction. The direction being pushed in UNESCO, in the absence of an American veto on a core issue, had to be reversed and done so loudly, clearly and backed up by the will and might of the world’s most powerful nation.

Further, Trump must further clarify the character of recognition without defining borders. Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since 1949. That is a fact and not a matter of negotiation. Negotiations are needed to resolve all the respective claims that Israelis and Palestinians have, including questions related to Jerusalem. Israelis and Palestinians must resolve these issues directly without outside interference. Does the new initiative reinforce this route or undermine it by expressing a bias in favour of the Israeli position and, thereby, ruling out the American role as a supposed “neutral” intervenor?

There is a logic to the duality of recognition, on the one hand, and declaring that this still left the borders undefined. Israel’s prime minister and parliament are located in the part of Jerusalem that is not contested. There is an honesty in ending the fiction that the city is not the Israeli capital, a fiction which has gone on for 70 years. At the same time, given the centrality and potentially explosive nature of Jerusalem, the ability of the parties to determine the boundaries of the city must be respected. The possibility even that Jerusalem will become the capital of two states must be left open.

Of course, those who are anti-Zionist and deny Israel’s legitimacy will never be satisfied by such nuances and elaborations. Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, has already called for an uprising. In the violent riots thus far, several Palestinians have already been killed. The president’s declaration can be exploited further.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas never went as far as the Hamas leader. He merely declared that the U.S. could no longer assume the mediator’s role.

Jerusalem is an emotional issue. Any initiative will be misrepresented. That misrepresentation can help encourage violence or accompany the violence instigated by extremists. That, in turn, will strengthen the hand of the rejectionists and undermine the more moderate elements in both the PA and in Jordan. According to these modest plaudits, the initiative must be followed by a diplomatic offensive which repeats as a mantra that the two initiatives – moving the embassy and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – do not, repeat, do not preempt any final decision on borders. How this will be accomplished without diplomats in place in critical centres is, of course, a related question, especially when this failure was accompanied by the appointment of David Friedman as the U.S. ambassador to Israel, an individual who openly opposes a two-state solution. The Trump administration has not named an ambassador to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar or a replacement of Barbara Leaf as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates; this has already been considered a sign of disrespect by the countries in the region.

Beinart in opposing the initiative, even with the nuances and proposed elaborations, never wanted “to detract from the primary moral responsibility of those ‎Palestinians who detonate bombs or shoot guns or stab with knives. Palestinian terrorism ‎is inexcusable. It always has been. It always will be.”‎ However, he drew an equivalence between those who commit acts of violence and those who trigger a violent response because of their insensitive and unrealistic politics, however much they did not intend to do so. In answer to the criticism that this gave Palestinians a veto over policy since they need merely hold out the threat of an uprising to get those who initiated policies not to their liking to back off, critics of Beinart and defenders of the initiative claimed that Beinart’s stance was akin to blaming the victim, such as a raped woman, for the violence of the man who assaults her.

Peter Breinart, however, made the following distinction. The violence of a male rapist is a product of male pathology. The cause of Palestinian violence, however pathological, is a response to a genuine grievance. This is the nub of his position. He accuses Israel of being the primary reason that the peace process has not advanced. Israel has been guilty of creeping annexation.

It is on this that we disagree. For I hold both parties responsible at the same time as I hold neither responsible for their key difference – the final disposition of Jerusalem. The bottom lines of both parties are incompatible so there is no possibility of peace unless one side or the other budges from its position. Beinart is not simply concerned with the optics of Trump’s announcement; he finds Palestinians to be the lesser responsible party, even though they resort to initiating violence. He takes that stance because he holds that the responsibility for the violence ultimately rests in the hands of the Israeli government and its supporters. I try to bracket my evaluations about responsibility, however, when I undertake an analysis to try as best I can to minimize the effect of my own value priorities and dispositions.

It should be clear that Beinart’s evaluation is not a product of detached analysis but of a moral framework which stimulates within Peter a Cassandra perspective, not simply a very pessimistic outlook concerning political outcomes, but an absolute conviction that he has the power to prophecy accurately even if many or most do not buy into his prognostications.  Hence his support for boycotting products produced in settlements in the West Bank.

Different critics of Beinart who support Trump’s initiative offer some of the following arguments; I put them forth as an amalgam:

  1. The Trump initiative was indeed lacking in substance, and this was its merit; the pronouncement simply recognized the reality on the ground but there was not any there, there, that changed anything;
  2. The move actually made the U.S. more of an honest broker, in Israeli eyes at least, providing more leverage over the Israelis, but without diminishing American neutrality as well as U.S. influence among Muslims and Arabs, quite aside from the current theatrics;
  3. In openly and formally endorsing a two-state solution, the U.S., in fact, had made a step forward;
  4. The absence of a clear strategic vision can be read as a failure, but it could be an intentional step in keeping a mediator’s cards close to one’s chest;
  5. Though the action failed to spell out either the needs or demands of either side, this again was better in reifying America’s role as a neutral party;
  6. In answer to the claim that the initiative had given a green light to Israel to expand its settlement efforts, those were already well underway;
  7. Other initiatives, such as a temporary stop to settlement building, had not been sufficient in the past to drive the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, but combining that with the signal of an even possible greater initiative, might do the trick;
  8. In any case, what was there to lose since there was widespread agreement that the so-called peace process had reached a dead end;
  9. Though lacking in substance, though consisting of only a move with great symbolic significance, this initiative was the only one available when the differences over Jerusalem had remained so intractable for far too long;
  10. When such a move had been preceded by envoys from the business world rather than the traditional diplomatic core, it offered the Palestinians an opportunity to signal back under the cover of street demonstrations by keeping those demonstrations confined and also restricted largely to the symbolic level.
  11. Finally, it was urgent that the Obama non-veto in the dying days of that administration, that had given encouragement and a greater rationale for the Palestinians becoming even more intransigent, be reversed if any breakthrough could be expected.
  12. The above points indicate, not a missing U.S. strategy for the Middle East and for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict specifically, but may have also signalled a non-rational and radically new disruptive approach rather than being content with the so-called tried and true methods of international diplomacy [this will be the subject of my analysis in tomorrow’s blog].

As I will explore tomorrow, disruption rather than going-along-with-the-flow has emerged as the new mechanism to replace the old one of “trying harder,” of banging one’s head against an insurmountable wall of resistance whereby each side saw time on its side. At least one of the parties had to come to the realization that time was not on their side. That of necessity had to be the weaker party. Besides, hypocrisy had to come to an end, not only hypocrisy about the discrepancy between reality on the ground and the frozen postures of outside countries, but the hypocrisy whereby Arabs building on conquered land had never been branded illegal by the international community, but moves by Israel, including those in places such as French Hill and Gilo, were so branded in a way that ran completely contrary not only to the facts on the ground, but what could realistically be expected in the future given Israel’s real power and given Israel’s real control of the ground game.

 

Tomorrow: Disruption as a Foundation for International Diplomacy

 

Responses to Trump’s Moving the American Embassy Policy – Part I

Responses to Trump’s Moving the American Embassy Policy – Part I

by

Howard Adelman

I was proud to see that my analysis of Trump’s announcement to move the American embassy in the foreseeable future and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as distributed Wednesday afternoon, generally held up very well with other analyses, with one clear exception. Though I accepted that the policy statement was nuanced, that it was impelled by domestic realities, I was out of synch with some commentators who thought the move was reasonable and realistic internationally as well as domestically. I was on the side of those who believed that Trump’s initiative in setting in motion steps to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and, more importantly, immediately recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, would add to the difficulty of advancing progress on the peace front.

This blog will primarily focus upon commentators who agreed with me with respect to the lack of realism internationally regarding the announcement. Usually, they went further and made the judgement that the move was ill-advised or considered it a clear setback to negotiations. Subsequently, not even counting the leadership of all the major political parties in Israel, I will deal with analysts who viewed the initiative as a reasonable one and generally welcome at this time.

In beginning with critics, I will not include any analysis of those who saw the move as part of Zionist and colonialist efforts to deny Palestinians their rights to self-determination and their rightful ownership of Palestine or other more moderate stances of countries in the Middle East who were outraged but still supported a two-state solution.  In dealing with those who agreed with me on the international repercussions, I will say very little about those who were unequivocally apoplectic and loudly denounced and demonstrated against the new policy because they found it indecent and contrary to international law.

For example, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) organized a petition and a series of demonstrations declaring their shock and outrage. CJPME opposed any initiatives of countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem. They declared that, Trump ignored “all previous UN resolutions and an international consensus on Jerusalem.” Trump did not ignore previous resolutions. His statement was made in opposition to such resolutions, and specifically the one in December in the Security Council which President Obama did not veto which weighed in on the negotiations and declared ALL settlements on the other side of the old Green Line to be illegal. As I had analyzed the initiative, Trump’s move was intended to counter Barack Obama’s failure or refusal to use the veto.

Nor did I contend that Trump’s decision undermined all Middle East peace efforts calling for a negotiated settlement on the status of Jerusalem. Trump specifically qualified his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital by insisting that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the plan to move the embassy did not address the issue of Jerusalem’s borders but that such a decision must result from negotiations between the two parties. I was interested in critics on the left who were more analytical, though a few were also clearly very upset.

I distinguish between analyses and appraisals. For although I might have agreed with some critics’ analyses with respect to the international dimensions, I disagreed on their ultimate evaluation. For whether one agreed or disagreed with Trump, whether one has a very low regard for Trump as I do, I thought the policy statement was well crafted and nuanced.

Let me begin with some of the very bright lights among the critics. I start with Peter Beinart who is very sharp analytically but seemed to be almost as apoplectic and hysterical about Trump’s announcement when I watched him on CNN as anti-Zionists. He had expressed his extreme displeasure in the past with respect to Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to build 2,500 more new housing units in parts of Jerusalem that were once on the other side of the Green Line as well as with Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Beinart repeatedly insisted that these moves were incendiary and would cost Israeli lives.

In contrast, Alan Dershowitz, who has a liberal pedigree but in the last few years has sounded like he was more on the right, argued that, “Violence should not determine policy.” Any instigated violence should be met by counter-measures by the police and the military. “The reason violence  – whether rock-throwing or more lethal forms of terrorism  – is used because it works… as a way to extort concessions from the world. And it works because policy makers often make or refrain from making controversial decisions based on the fear of violent reactions.”

For Dershowitz, unlike Beinart, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem was not unreasonable nor was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. According to Dershowitz, Jerusalem is and will remain Israel’s capital. It is a fact and not a matter for debate. When such moves explicitly insist that this in no way predetermines the boundaries of Jerusalem or who should have sovereignty over the Old City, for Dershowitz that is not only a reasonable move, but a prudent one.

For Dershowitz, it does not matter whether the threat of violence comes from Palestinians, from Islamic demonstrators in Malaysia or from settlers on the West Bank. Policy should not be determined by such threats. As an example, Dershowitz cites the threats and the actual violence that resulted when, in 2000-2001, President Bill Clinton and then Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, put forth what was for Israel an extremely generous set of concessions. The threat – and the response: the Second Intifada! Dershowitz was even critical of the Israeli government for backing down under the threat of violence to its initiative in installing security cameras on what Jews call the Temple Mount (Har HaBáyit) and Muslims call Haram esh-Sharif. Dershowitz is fond of quoting Yitzhak Rabin. “We will pursue the peace process as if there no terrorism, and respond to terrorism as if there were no peace process.”

Other commentators supporting the Dershowitz position cite opposite moves that were far more widespread than recognizing the central site as special to Muslims as well as Jews. The UN General Assembly went further in the other direction in October of last year when it recognized the central holy site in Jerusalem as Muslim, supported Muslim claims and ignored Jewish ones.

The Dershowitz position could be questioned because it did not go far enough but also because it went too far in declaring Trump’s rationale to be reasonable. Was the diplomatic initiative reasonable? The peace offer of Barak was reasonable – whether or not one agreed with it. The installation of cameras on the Temple Mount (Har Habayit), however, broke an agreement between the Israeli authorities and the Muslims who administered the plaza of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Golden Dome. Israel had concurred that any changes with respect to the Temple Mount would take place as a product of consultations and joint initiatives. Unilateral actions on the part of Israelis, even those that on the surface seemed very reasonable, were read and interpreted as additional steps reducing Islamic authority on a site which they considered very holy.

Was the initiative to move the American embassy and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, without prejudging the boundaries of that capital, unreasonable in breaking with previous agreements and seemingly both symbolically and on the ground advancing Israeli claims of sovereignty at the expense of Palestinian claims? That is the nub of the issue. America’s allies by and large took that position. At this time, such an initiative was “unhelpful”. The Czech Republic initially followed the Russian example of recognizing West Jerusalem as Israeli’s capital which, for many Israelis, seemed implicitly to deny Israeli claims on other parts of Jerusalem, even when qualified by assertions that the move did not signal any assessment on the ultimate boundaries of the capital of the Jewish state. In any case, the next day the Prime Minister rescinded the statement of the president of The Czech Republic.

Dershowitz’s argument in defence of the move and his rant against threats of violence, and Beinart’s apoplectic responses to the initiative and fears for “Jewish” lives, both depended on the assessment of a prior issue – was the initiative reasonable? More importantly, was it reasonable now? Canada was not agnostic on this question, even though the Canadian government refrained from criticizing the American initiative. Canada simply reiterated its position that any unilateral initiatives at this time would further complicate the difficulties in advancing the peace process and that our country would refrain from taking any unilateral steps.

The moderate and experienced negotiator on the Palestinian side, Saeb Erekat, backed up by Abbas, did not threaten violence and at least rhetorically called only for peaceful demonstrations. He did pronounce not only the peace process, but even the prospect of a two-state solution, dead. The only possibility, he insisted was now fostering a one state solution with equal rights for both Jews and Palestinians in the whole territory. However, he spoiled his threat by getting the facts wrong in asserting that Donald Trump had recognized a “united” Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Trump did no such thing.

Dershowitz asked all bystanders not to “be fooled by those who say that the two-state solution is dead or that it is time to adopt a one-state solution.” Why? Because under any resolution, “Jerusalem would be recognized as the capital of Israel and its holiest places would remain under Israeli control.” That may be a realist prophecy. That may even be a realistic policy. But since it was at the heart of the dispute over Jerusalem, it would be all the more reason not to signal a pre-emptive outcome at this time. Even Donald Trump never went that far in putting forth his position. If Donald Trump had done so, if he had kept his promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without qualifying that initiative as not preempting any outcome on the borders of Jerusalem that could result from an agreement, then a Palestinian rejection should be viewed as reasonable and not just “the latest excuse by Palestinian leaders to refuse to sit down, negotiate and make the painful compromises necessary for a complete resolution of the outstanding issues.”

However, Dershowitz offered another argument why an initiative, without the qualification of not predetermining the sovereignty over the holy sites, was the reasonable one. It goes back to the point I made at the beginning of this blog that Trump was indeed attentive to previous UN resolutions. “President Trump’s decision merely restores the balance that was undone by President Obama’s decision to engineer a one-sided Security Council Resolution that changed the status quo.” That is, of course, why I criticized the failure of the US, when Obama was already a lame-duck president, to veto the Security Council resolution that Israeli settlements were illegal. The motions of the Security Council, unlike those of the UN General Assembly, do have legal status. With the U.S. landmark decision not to join the other 14 votes in favour of declaring all settlements illegal but to abstain, an initiative was permitted to take place which did preempt declarations on the outcome of the negotiations.

The Obama White House had rationalized its abstention which had far more significance than Donald Trump’s moving the embassy or recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, again without predetermining the borders of Jerusalem. For one, it was accompanied by a press release explaining the American failure to veto the resolution was determined by “the absence of any meaningful peace process.” That meant that the US was declaring Israel to be the main culprit in sabotaging the peace process. But if one defended the Obama initiative and, thereby, its rationale that the peace process had reached a dead end, then Donald Trump’s initiative should have posed no problem since, unlike the UN resolution, there was no presumptions about a final outcome.

Of course there was a presumption in both moves. Both the Obama and the Trump initiatives signaled an understanding of who was to blame for the stalled peace process. The UN resolution went even further in weighing in, not only on the agent to blame, but on the substance of negotiations, for that resolution declared that areas of West Jerusalem, such as French Hill, illegal as well. The resolution stated that Israel’s settlements had been placed “on Palestinian territory,” that the area captured in the 1967 war and occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, was Palestinian, and the occupation had “no legal validity.” Though the resolution only demanded a halt to “all Israeli settlement activities” as “essential for salvaging the two-state solution,” and did not demand a roll-back of previous actions, it made the quest for a two-state solution even more difficult. For the process was now under an international determination that the settlements were illegal and Israel, whichever party formed the government, would resist participating in negotiations that, in advance, undermined the Israel position that the settlements were not illegal.

There was another voice on the left that criticized Trump’s initiative, not for its content, but for failing to demand any quid pro quo from the Israeli government for what is broadly considered to be a bold American move. Tom Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize- winning columnist for The New York Times, seemed to criticize the initiative, not for its substantive content, but for the failure to link the American concession to a demand that Israel halt its settlement activities. For Friedman, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had been understood as a concession that would be offered in return for Israeli concessions on other issues, such as settlements. Trump had awarded Israel a prize a) at a time when Israel did not deserve it; b) without extracting balancing concessions; and c) while offering Palestinians nothing of consequence in exchange.

In fact, the Trump initiative had been accompanied by a number of prior moves in the opposite direction – the expansion of Israel building more housing units on territory on the other side of the Green Line, such as in Gilo, which, under any peace agreement, was expected by all parties to remain part of Israel. There were other moves – the downgrading of the PLO “embassy” in Washington, the withdrawal of financial support by Congress to the Palestinian Authority because of its implicit support for terrorism in awarding recognition and providing the families of these “martyrs” with pensions. This was seen as a move towards defining the PA as a supporter of terror. The ground was being laid for subjecting the PA to US sanctions.

 

To be continued – Those Who Applaud Trump’s Initiative

 

Tomorrow: to be continued – Plaudits for Trump’s Initiative

Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution: Part A

Resolution 2334 and a Two-State Solution: Part A

by

Howard Adelman

Thus far, I have published two blogs in this series, one on the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Wall and a second on Demography, Settlements and Jerusalem. The point was to document both the legal issues and the facts on the ground. This blog, in its several parts, has more to do with policy and addresses the question of the two-State solution; namely, to what degree and why does Resolution 2334 depict the settlements as a threat to that solution. Usually, I indicate future installments of a series at the end of a blog. But this time I will do it up-front to assure readers that I intend to go into some matters more thoroughly in subsequent blogs. They will be, in order:
The American Approach to the Resolution;
The Israeli Approach to the Resolution;
The Consequences of the Resolution.

In defence of America’s abstention on UNSC Resolution 2334, John Kerry said that the Resolution reiterated the “vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.” He argued that the Resolution was a last ditch effort to “stabilize the situation and to reverse negative trends on the ground, which are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality.” Further, he insisted that the resolution would help “create the conditions for successful final status negotiations and for advancing the two-State solution through those negotiations and on the ground.” All of this was said against a background in which John Kerry has clearly stated that, although he supports Israel and although the U.S. remains totally committed to Israeli security and legitimacy, the building of settlements was identified by Kerry as the main threat to the two-State solution. Further, and perhaps more importantly, he had concluded that Netanyahu was only paying lip service to the two-State solution, and was supporting settlement policies that threatened that solution.

Key elements in the current right-wing Israeli cabinet, the most right-wing in Israeli history, are absolutely opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel. Naftali Bennett, one of Netanyahu’s coalition partners, recently announced that, “the era of the two-state solution is over.” On the other side of the barrier, increasing numbers of Palestinians have come to the same conclusion, and did so when Bennett was merely promoting the idea and not yet declaring it a fait accompli.

Many past UN resolutions targeted settlements as a threat to a peace agreement and a two-State solution. If the United States belatedly came to this recognition, why did the Obama administration not support UNSC Resolution 2334? Why did the U.S. abstain? United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 adopted unanimously on 22 November 1967 established the principles for framing an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. It affirmed the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territories by force” that I discussed in an earlier blog. Israeli interpreters argued the inadmissibility clause was irrelevant to Israel because the territory was acquired in a defensive war and, in any case, was not taken from a sovereign power. Most international legal experts dispute this interpretation.

According to the drafters of Resolution 242, however, the Resolution not only required direct negotiations between the disputing parties, but also required withdrawal from captured territories. But not ALL the territories. The term “all” was deliberately excluded from the draft against the opposition of the Arab states. The drafters, and those who supported Resolution 242 at the time expected that, in the negotiations, there would be some exchange of territory in a peace agreement. This may be one case in which diplomatic equivocation and the use of ambiguity – central to the art of diplomacy – may have caused more trouble in the long run compared to the short term benefit of gaining a consensus in support of Resolution 242.

Meanwhile, Israel began its program of settlements, initially for military defensive purposes, allowed under international humanitarian law, but also to make claims for territory, initially in some of the areas captured near Jerusalem. In great prescience, Jacob Talmon, the late great Israeli historian, in 1967 raged and warned about the threat expanding settlements would pose for a peace agreement, then with Jordan. Ten years after the end of the Six Day War and four years after the disastrous Yom Kippur War, Menachem Begin became Prime Minister on 21 June 1977. During his period as head of government, he made a peace agreement with Egypt and gave the Sinai in its entirety back. For that, he and Egyptian President Anwar el-Sādāt won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978.

In the shadow and the glory of that agreement, Begin’s government passed the Jerusalem Law on 30 July 1980 which declared Jerusalem to be the united capital of Israel, but without specifying its boundaries and without formal annexation. Nevertheless, that was sufficient to stimulate an enormous international backlash. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 478 declaring Israel’s 1980 Jerusalem Law, which de facto but not de jure annexed East Jerusalem, as illegal. The vote was 14-0 with the U.S. abstaining. Further, UN legal experts contended that, even though the Resolution was passed under Chapter VI, it was still binding on all states based on a 1971 ruling of the International Court of Justice. Consequently, there are no longer any foreign embassies whatsoever in Jerusalem.

The period from 1980 to the Oslo Accords marked a new phase of settlement activity under the leadership of a party that claimed all of the West Bank as rightfully belonging to Israel. Begin’s government began an aggressive program of expansion of settlements that clearly lacked even the pretence of any defensive military function. But the greatest fiery storm was set off, not by the settlements, but by what happened on the Temple Mount or what the Arabs call al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf, or the “Noble Sanctuary.” On 8 October 1990, when Bibi Netanyahu was Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Israeli Border Police killed 17 Palestinians and wounded many more in a so-called riot on that site. They were killed because, according to Netanyahu who treated truth with as much reverence as Donald Trump, the Palestinians were throwing stones down on worshipers at the Wall in a deliberate attempt to deflect attention away from Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait two months earlier on 2 August 1990.

It so happened that there were no worshipers at the Wall that day. They had been removed for their own safety. Instead, the Temple Mount Faithful, a group of Jewish Zealots promoting the reconstruction of the Temple on its original site, announced a plan to march on the Temple Mount in contravention of an explicit Israeli court order not to do so. To confront the Zealots, an extreme group of Palestinians gathered on the Temple Mount with rocks to confront the Jewish Zealots. In confusion, set off by an explosion of unknown origin among the gathered Palestinians, the Palestinians began throwing the rocks at the Border Police. The Border Police retaliated with live ammunition, initially killing one Palestinian.

That instigated a full-scale riot. With reinforcements, the Israeli Border Police launched an assault on the Temple Mount killing 17 and wounding many more. The uproar was not caused by the Temple Mount Faithful, even though their initial announcement had been an instigating factor. Nor had it been caused by Palestinian Zealots resisting them or raining rocks down on innocent worshipers at the Western Wall as Bibi then contended, though the Palestinians had indeed prepared themselves with rocks to protect the grounds of the Noble Sanctuary. The prime cause was the use of excessive military force in a volatile situation. (For a very recent recounting of the incident, read Barry Lantos’ blog published on 3 November 2016. He was one of the investigative reporters who had covered the story.)

James Baker, head of the State Department in the President George H.W. Bush administration, in 1990 banned Netanyahu from the State Department, not as rumoured because of disputes with American officials over policy or over the West Bank or the Temple Mount, but because of the same type of lies and distortions Netanyahu repeatedly made, especially in reference to American diplomatic efforts.

The situation changed with the election of Rabin and the conclusion of the Oslo Accord in 1993 and the 1995 extensions. In Oslo, settlements were recognized as matters for negotiation. Further, the territory of the West Bank was divided into three different areas, Area A under the administrative and security authority of the Palestinian Authority, Area B under the administrative authority of the Palestinian Authority and Area C under both the administrative and security authority of Israel. The situations of Gaza and East Jerusalem were left unchanged. The establishment and growth of settlements, as recognized in the Oslo Accords, did not indicate where the lines would be drawn between the Israeli and Palestinian states.

After a burst of expansion of settlements before Oslo and under the initial Netanyahu administration, by far the greatest expansion of settlements in the West Bank took place under the early years of Arik Sharon, who was Prime Minister from February 2001 to 2006 until he suffered a stroke. Resolution 2334 repeats resolution 1515 endorsing the 2003 Quartet Roadmap that required a freeze on settlement growth, including so-called “natural” growth, and dismemberment of all settlements constructed since 2001.

Why 2001? 22 settlements were established in 2001 and 19 in 2002 – Alt 468, Ancient Susiya Synagogue, Asa’el, Bat Ayin West, Elmatan, Gal Outpost, Gilad Farm, Gival Assaf, Givat Sal’it, Hakaron, Harro’eh, Kochav Ya’akov West, Migron, Mitzpe Lach, Mitzpe Yitzhar, Neve Danile North, Nofei Nehemia, Ramat Gilad, and T’koa D. In contrast, there were only two in 2003 (Kochav Ya’akov East and Mitzpe Eshtamoa), three in 2004 (Bnei Adam, Mishpatei Eretz and Ofra Zion Mizrah, and only one in 2005 – Omer Farm. The period of enormous expansion of numbers of settlements was over, but not the expansion of the size of Israeli settlements recognized as legal by Israel.

That period afterwards and before made the Oslo years seem an exception to the expansionist phases of settlements from 1980 to 1992 and then again after Rabin was assassinated. What changed from 12 or 13 years ago to suddenly make settlements the threat to a two-State solution for the United States at this time, but did not back then? Why not 2007 when Obama first came to power? Why not in 2014 following Bibi Netanyahu’s announcement that 1,260 new housing units would be built in East Jerusalem, 600 units to be constructed in Ramat Shlomo in north-eastern Jerusalem, a settlement founded in 1995 adjacent to Shuafat and Beit Hanina in the same year when the extensions to the Oslo Accords were agreed upon. Another 660 units were to be built in Har Homa established in 1997 in south-eastern Jerusalem near Beit Sahour with a view of nearby Bethlehem.

In 2015, Netanyahu responded angrily when the Jerusalem municipality froze the planned expansion of Har Homa by 1,500 homes. There was certainly a fight in 2014 over settlements. One Obama administration official called Netanyahu a “chickenshit,” echoing an insult directed at Netanyahu by an official in the Clinton administration. Why did the U.S. not officially declare settlements illegal then? Why did the U.S. at that time not depict settlements as an imminent and existential explicit threat to a two-State solution? Instead settlements were then called obstacles to peace and were sometimes dubbed illegitimate. But they had not been labeled illegal by the U.S.

Part of the difficulty in understanding the problem is that there are at least four two-State solutions. Settlements impact on each differently. But let me mention the various one-State solutions first. There is the vision held by a few right-wing Israeli extremists in Netanyahu’s cabinet who believe in incorporating all of the West Bank as Israeli sovereign territory. In one variation, many Palestinians who refused to pledge loyalty to Israel would be expelled. In another variation, Palestinians would be given permanent residency status, but not citizenship, but would be expelled if they proved to threaten Israeli security.

In a second version, there would be one sovereign state encompassing Israel, Area C and East Jerusalem. Areas A and B would have an independent internal self-governing authority as a satrap of Israel. In a third version, there would be a single state in all of the old mandate territory, including the Gaza Strip. Jews and Palestinians would have equal citizenship and equal rights in a single state. This is a vision that went back to idealists like Martin Buber and is still upheld today by current idealists. In a fourth version, Israel-Palestine would be a federated state with two provinces – Palestine and Israel with Jerusalem operated as a federal district. The federal authority would have responsibility for security, foreign relations, trade and monetary policy. Clearly, there could be many variations of all of these versions. Perhaps there are even one or two more versions, but the likelihood of anyone of them coming about is slim to none.

I could, of course, be wrong. After all, I was wrong about the extent that settlements would develop. I never believed that the settlement activities would take place to the extent that they did. But, in spite of the extent of the settlements, I still believe that a two-State solution is the only realistic option, though some of the versions of this option are as unrealistic as any of the one-State solutions. There is the vision of two states based on the 1967 cease- fire lines. Secondly, there is the vision of two states in which the settlements around Jerusalem are incorporated into West Jerusalem as the capital of an Israeli state but East Jerusalem, including the Old City, would become part of a Palestinian state. There is a version in which Israel assumes control of the Old City with religious rights guaranteed to Palestinians and, indeed, all Muslims. In a version John Kerry seems to favour, Jerusalem would remain united, but as a capital of both states. All of these versions, I believe, are unrealistic, but John Kerry’s is, I believe, the most unrealistic.

A more likely version would be that Area C would be transferred to Israeli jurisdiction with some deletions while an equivalent amount of Israeli territory would be transferred to the Palestinian state so that state would have approximately 22% of the Mandate territory, the amount under Arab control before the Six Day War. Though this option, given Oslo, is the one most likely, that likelihood is undercut by the argument over Jerusalem. In one variation, the Israelis in the settlements being transferred to the Palestinians would become dual citizens of both Palestine and Israel. In another scenario, the settlers would be offered an economic benefit in exchange for returning to Israel. In a quite different variation, everything would be settled except for the Old City; it would remain under Israeli jurisdiction until an agreement could be made about it. This seems the most likely outcome. The thickening of the existing settlements in the suburbs of Jerusalem and in Area C does nothing to threaten this version of the two-State solution.

The threat to the two-State solution now comes primarily from the issue of Jerusalem, not the settlements. The Palestinians see East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as the capital of their future state. Most Israelis support an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, though some of them would exclude East Jerusalem but not the Old City. The reality is that settlements have always threatened a two-State solution. They did in 1967 when they were created to assert claims on Jerusalem and to establish military defense positions in the West Bank – and then under a Labour government. Establishing new settlements reached a peak threat in the first years of this century. There is little reason to declare that the last few years, with the main focus on “thickening” the existing settlements, poses any greater threat than ever before. In fact, the pattern of settlements suggests that de facto borders are being made on the ground between an Israeli and a Palestinian state. That may not have been the scenario I defended for years, but it does take the reality into account that Israel will not be willing or able to resettle 400,000 of its citizens. It barely managed to resettle 9,000 from Gaza.

With the help of Alex Zisman

To be continued.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

by

Howard Adelman

From my recent blogs, the two issues that seemed to arouse some need for further discussion were the conclusion about Jerusalem remaining the key obstacle to peace and the implication that the United States and Israel would be at odds over negotiating with a possibly reunited Palestinian entity involving Hamas as well as Fatah. In this morning’s blog I will focus on Jerusalem and, more particularly, on a report on the conference, “The Road to Jerusalem” that took place from Monday to Wednesday of this week in Amman, Jordan.

The conference was opened by HRH Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad, Jordan’s King Abdullah II’s Advisor for Religious and Cultural Affairs. It was not just a conference of Muslims. Christian clerics and scholars as well as politicians from across the Arab world were in attendance. Secondly, the premise of the conference was that Jerusalem was an occupied city. Given that it was occupied, how were both Muslims and Christians to deal with their holy sites when the occupying and controlling authority was neither Muslim nor Christian. The conference was organized by the World Islamic Sciences and Education (WISE) University, the Lower House Palestine Committee and the Muslim World League, a clear indication that the dominant instigation for the conference was a Muslim one. Christians had a token role.

WISE, for example, located in Amman, was only established four years ago. Its purpose from the beginning was primarily political rather than educational since it was established to be the home of the Arabic League and National Identity Conference. The university has nine faculties including Theology, Sharia Law, Humanities and Education, Traditional Islamic Art and Architecture, Information Technology, Business and Finance, Basic Sciences, A Graduate Faculty and an Institute for Quranic Studies and Recitation complete the list. It is, in other words, a traditional religious-based university. Thus, the Faculty of Theology offers a PhD in Faith and Islamic Philosophy as well as bachelors and graduate degrees in “scientific interpretation” of religious texts and ritual. In contrast, its Faculty of Arts and Education only offers a bachelors degree majoring in either English literature or Education. There are no courses in social sciences or history. The applied professional fields of study – information technology and business and finance – are concerned with business management and accounting as well as information systems and technology. The Faculty of Basic Sciences has a program in “Islamic Sciences” not chemistry, physics, etc. It also has a department of English, finance and education. This is not your typical model of a western university.

The focus of the conference was the religious significance of Al Aqsa Mosque as well as other Muslim – and Christians – sites in Jerusalem. Given the special custodial role of King Abdullah II for the Al Asque Mosque, the issue was how “the Arab and Muslim worlds and the international community can come to the aid of the occupied city.” The assumption was that aid was desperately needed because of “Israeli arrogance and violations against the Palestinians in the West Bank” as well as to thwart Israeli schemes vis a vis Islamic holy sites, in particular the expenditure of $4 billion dollars by the Israeli occupation on the Judaization of Jerusalem. The clear thrust of the conference was to document the central importance of Jerusalem and its holy sites in the history of Islam. The explicit goal was to preserve the Arab identity of the “holy city”. There was absolutely no indication that at least 40% of the Jews in Israel came from the Arab world.

Within that core focus was the central theme – how to protect the Haram al-Sharif, the site of the Al-Asqua Mosque and the Dome on the Rock given that Article 9 of the 1994 Jordan-Israeli Peace Agreement assigned Jordan that prime responsibility, an assignment confirmed by an agreement signed between King Abdullah II and Mahmoud Abbas on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in March 2013. What is also clear is that this new focus on Haram al Sharif is also fueled by Jewish religious extremist rejection of the Muslim control over the Temple Mount. As stated in the conference, Israel traditionally had respected Islamic control and had agreed that the site was to be protected by unarmed guards paid for by the Jordanian government. However, given Israeli control of the one gate, the Mughrabi Gate, in order to allow access to the Western Wall, unauthorized visits of militant Jews using that gate have significantly increased to the  Haram al-Sharif.

A central theological issue was whether visits to Jerusalem by non-Palestinians were a) acceptable and b) to be encouraged, given that the sites were under the ultimate control of the Israeli authorities. Abbas and Mohammed Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem, were promoting such visits. Yehiya Soud, a Palestinian-Jordanian firebrand, recounted how, in spite of his Jordanian diplomatic passport, he was held up for five hours at the king Hussein Bridge before allowed entry. Given an Egyptian theological ruling, Muslims from Turkey, Indonesia and Jordan, countries who recognized Israel and whose passports would allow them to visit, were to be encouraged to visit Haram al-Sharif, but this was a ruling hotly disputed by Islamic scholars from Qatar, Yemen and Morocco who held that, while the holy sites were under Israeli – read Jewish – control, such visits only legitimized Israeli occupation. Further, the Arab Peace Initiative of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation prohibits normalization with Israel until Israel withdraws from Arab areas occupied in 1967. Yusuf Qaradawi, a prominent Egyptian cleric at odds with other Egyptian policies, had issued a fatwa against such visits. However, the trend to not recognize such visits and to view them as beneficial for the fight for Islamic control of the holy city was viewed as on the upswing. In parallel with the conference, Abbas I Ramallah pledged $1million towards an endowment to secure Muslim control of the holy city.

Abbas won. The majority of Islamic scholars in attendance reversed past practice and supported visits by Muslims in addition to Palestinians to Haram al-Sharif. This can be read in two different ways – as progress towards recognition of Israeli de facto control and sovereignty and as a source of further disruption and controversy for Israel as Islamic militants from Egypt or Turkey take to seeking access in large numbers. On the one hand, Islamic tourism could be fostered which could bring about greater understanding even if that was not the motive. On the other hand, the new move could be a source of new tensions

The situation is further complicated by corresponding shifts in attitudes and approaches by religious Jews. Traditionally, since 1967 the two chief Israeli rabbis, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, have concurred and made visits to the Temple Mount off limits for devout Jews lest they trod on what was the Jewish temple. However, militant religious Jews have begun to challenge that ruling. In fact, recently right wing Israelis have begun visiting the area and provoking controversy by seeking to pray on the site. Muslims see this as an initiative to blow up the site – there have been incidents of such efforts in the past – in order to rebuild the Temple.

With the possible increase in both the numbers of Muslims and religious Jews visiting the Islamic holiest site in Jerusalem, the potential for clashes also increases enormously. But the way to sort out the issue of sovereignty also becomes more complicated as emotions get roused on both sides over incidents that are bound to take place. The more Jerusalem becomes the final redoubt in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, the more the Old City is in danger of serving as a tinder box. The diplomatic issue exacerbates the concern, the concern exacerbates the security issue from both sides and the security issues compound the difficulties in resolving the conflict over Jerusalem and endangers the Israeli traditional stance of acknowledging Islamic religious control while insisting on sovereign control. Thus does the dialectic dance of extremism undermine the search for stability of moderates.

As Ezekial describes it, the road from Babylon split in two, one road going to Amman (then Rabbah in Ammon),  the other to Jerusalem then the capital city of Judah. Islam has always wanted to make the road to Jerusalem the ultimate destiny on that route as a path of Islamic religious expression. Jews have always recited, “Next Year in Jerusalem” and regarded Jerusalem as their one and only holy city, though religious Jews have other holy sites. Ezekial prophesied that the Babylonian king would set Jerusalem as his goal and thereby threaten Jerusalem as a Jewish city. Plus ça change, plus la même chose.

And for Christians and Messianic Jews, “Remove the turban, and take off the crown; things shall not remain as they are; exalt that which is low, and abase that which is high. A ruin, ruin ruin will I make it; there shall not be even a trace of it until he comes whose right it is; and to him I will give it.”

In such a controversial historical, religious and political quagmire, can anyone expect that proposals for international sovereignty over the city have any more headway and strength than when proposed in 1947. When the UN advance guard came to the city to take over administrative control in 1948, they were totally ignored as irrelevant.

Though I now see that all other aspects of the dispute are in principle resolvable – water, refugee return, security, even borders except for Jerusalem, I have no idea on how to resolve the Jerusalem issue except by divided authority. I think international authority – though international involvement in an advisory or observer role would be welcome – is not acceptable to either side. I do not even think joint control is possible. There will have to be continued divided authority, but Israel remaining the default sovereign control remains unacceptable to both Abbas and Muslims.

So that is why there will be no formal deal in the near future.

The greatest potential for violence has resided in Jewish zealots who are determined to pray on the Temple Mount under the guidance and incitement of the Temple Mount Faithful in defiance of Israeli political prudential decisions. On 7 December 2000, the al Aqsa intifada was instigated by a visit of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount and fiery sermons in response from Muslim pulpits. Neither side believes in sharing. Will the historic situation of the Second Civil War in 68CE repeat when moderates lost control of the Temple Mount to both the zealots entering from the West and the Edomites from the east?

Obama 23: Religion and the Israel-Palestinian Peace Process. 08.03.13

Obama 23: Religion and the Israel-Palestinian Peace Process 08.03.13

by

Howard Adelman

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is located on what Israelis call the Temple Mount and Muslims refer to as al-Haram al-Sharif. It is the site of the first and second temples. The Mosque is a gorgeous structure. Muslims revere the site as the one from which Muhammad ascended to heaven. The whole site, not just the Al-Aqsa Mosque or the Dome of the Rock also located on the Temple Mount, is administered by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf under the auspices of Jordan, a trust that has governed the site since the 12th century.

Responding to unfounded rumours that Barack Obama plans to visit the site, and that in his 2008 Presidential campaign in his June 2008 speech to AIPAC, Obama supported an undivided Jerusalem, and Hamas warnings against such a visit, on 23 February 2013 Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, head of the High Islamic Council in Jerusalem, welcomed Obama`s visit but under the same conditions as previous VIP visits since 1967 and in accordance with a protocol drafted by the Waqf in 1967:

1) The visitor must enter through any of 10 gates not administered by Israel, preferably the Al-Asbat gate, and, thus, excluding the Mughrabi Gate connected to the Western Wall plaza by a bridge, for the IDF allegedly stole the keys to that gate from the Islamic Waqf; the High Islamic Council of Jerusalem does not want to explicitly or implicitly recognize Israeli sovereignty over any of the gates; only Muslims have sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

2) No Israeli official may accompany the president onto the mount.

3) The visit must be non-political and for sight-seeing only.

4) Permission must be extended by the Palestinians delivered to the American consulate in East Jerusalem.

In other words, the visit must be perceived, not as politically neutral, but as explicitly denying recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and implicitly acknowledging Muslim and Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem, at least the Old City. So although the claim is made that the visit must only be for sight-seeing and not be political, the process of arranging the visit is explicitly political. Further, since the White House has given no indication of any plans to visit the site, the rumour itself and the warnings are themselves political — to send a message that America should make no misstep that might implicitly recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The wider ramifications of sovereignty disputes were reinforced when, at the press conference where Sabri set out these conditions, Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in the 1948 occupied lands, was the other spokesperson at the news conference. He was quoted as saying: "It is known that we have our constants as Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians regarding the issue of Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque, and we confirm that Jerusalem and the Aqsa Mosque are under occupation; the occupier has no sovereignty or legitimacy over them and this occupation will inevitably end."

Obama was not singled out for such treatment. Similar conditions were put in place for Papal visits and when French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited in June 2008. But all such visits are political. This was particularly true of Sarkozy`s for, in addressing Israeli legislators, he said, "There cannot be peace without an immediate and complete halt to settlement. There cannot be peace without recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of two states and the guarantee of free access to the holy places for all religions." Obama has never come close to expressing support for a re-divided Jerusalem or suggesting that Israel does not protect the access of all religious groups to their holy sites or. The latter assertion by Sarkozy was particularly insulting to Israelis who, since 1967, contend they have enforced such guarantees in contrast to pre-1967 practices.

Nor are the conditions for visiting the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque just applicable to non-Muslims. Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country’s top Islamic cleric, visited the alAqsa Mosque last year and stirred up a hornet`s nest. His visit to Jerusalem broke with decades of opposition by Muslim leaders to traveling to areas under Israeli control. The head of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmoud Ghozlan, called the visit “very strange” and said it violated the position the majority of Muslim clerics have taken “that there is no visiting to Jerusalem with continued Israeli occupation.” Qatar-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian, issued a religious fatwa a month prior to his visit insisting that Muslims should not visit Jerusalem “because it requires dealing with Zionist embassies to obtain visas.”

Gomaa’s visit was expressly described as non-official even though he explicitly also said that his visit was in solidarity with the Palestinians’ claim to the eastern part of the disputed city under Israel’s control. Gomaa went to Jerusalem under the auspices of the Jordanian royal family and in the company of Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Mohamed, president of the Al-Bayt Foundation, to inaugurate the Imam al-Ghazali Chair of Islamic Studies at the Jerusalem Islamic research center of which Gomaa is a Trustee. Gomaa entered from Jordan without visas or stamps in his passport from Israel.

Not all were critical. Azzam Khatib, the director of the Palestinian Islamic clerical body which administers the Al-Aqsa compound, praised the visit for sending out a message that it is an Islamic, Arab site. Sheikh Mohamed Hassan, the mufti of Jerusalem and the preacher of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Abdel Azim Sahlab, chairman of the Board of the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem, and Azzam al-Khatib, director of Jerusalem’s Religious Endowments (Waqf) Foundation, all accompanied him on the visit. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas “called on Muslims everywhere to visit Al-Aqsa and revitalize it by filling it with worshippers and pilgrims.”

So even religious Muslim visits become political.

Strictly political reports almost inevitably go the other way and broach religious issues. The report of EU diplomats in East Jerusalem to the European Union (Nonbinding Heads of Mission report for 2012) largely focused on settlements and recommendation that the EU endorse the boycott and divestment campaign aimed at products and services from Jewish settlements across the old Green Line. However, a significant portion of the report charged Israel with imposing restrictions on Muslim and Christian religious practice in Jerusalem and attempting to change the character of Jerusalem as a city sacred to all three faiths by enforcing “legal and policy restrictions on religious freedoms and on access in particular for Christian and Muslim worshippers to their holy sites in Jerusalem/Old City.”

This conclusion was widely reported by many organizations such as Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East and Dump Veolia Information Group in the UK. Further, the Report accused the Israel Antiquities Authority of being in league with right-wing extremists to promote “a partisan historical narrative, placing emphasis on the biblical and Jewish connotations of the area while neglecting the Christian/Muslim claims of historic-archaeological ties to the same place.” In addition to denouncing the creation of this “exclusively Jewish narrative on Jerusalem,” Israeli authorities were accused of permitting a sharp increase in “the frequency and visibility of visits by Jewish radical political and religious groups, often in a provocative manner.” Most incendiary of all was the implicit endorsement of Palestinian fears that Israel is trying to “Hebronize” and change the status quo on the Temple Mount.

Now it is true that MK Moshe Feiglin of the Likud Party has an absolute disdain for Palestinians and refuses even to use the word. He is an ardent advocate for Jewish control of the Temple Mount and aspires to "expel the Moslem wakf from the Temple Mount and restore exclusive Israeli sovereignty over the Mount.” Feiglin is committed to continue to pray at the Muslim holy site of the Noble Sanctuary, and for which he has been arrested many times. Because of the sensitive nature of the religious site, Israeli authorities prohibit Jews from praying in the area. (Cf. Alex Kane "‘We’ll take over the Likud, we’ll take over the country’: Far-right Israeli MK Moshe Feiglin honored in New York City," Mondoweiss, 26 February 2013) If there is any evidence of Israeli official efforts to discriminate, it is against the right of fanatics like Feiglin to use religion to stir up trouble.

However, fanatics on one side feed fanaticism on the other side. Unfortunately, the Al-Aqsa services on Friday have often been the occasion for doing just that and today provided a case in point. Given the rumours surrounding the Obama visit, some Palestinian leaders used Friday services that are meant for prayer and reflection to, as the saying goes, "stir the kasha" and work the flock into a frenzy of hate and violence. As Reuters reported this morning, "Clashes broke out between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank and at a holy site in Jerusalem on Friday as tensions rose just weeks before a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama." This followed the funeral of a Palestinian who was shot by the IDF in a confrontation two weeks ago and died yesterday. Of the 5,000 mourners, 100 broke away after Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and started pelting IDF soldiers with stones. The soldiers responded with stun grenades and rubber bullets. No one died, but 35 protesters and some soldiers were injured, none seriously.

In contrast to the discussion of settlement activities, the EU Heads of Mission Report based its findings of Israeli discrimination against other religions on expressions of fear, rumours and misinterpretation, though it is valid to say that most archeological work before the Common Era does focus on Jewish sites for there were then no Christian or Muslim sites. None of the many leaks of the report that I tracked down provided evidence to back up those fears, rumours and interpretations.

When we touch matters that seem to be overwhelmingly political, we find they are not. Anti-Zionism, that is opposition to an ideology that fosters national self determination for the Jewish people, was a position once taken by a majority of Jews. Since the Holocaust, and certainly since the creation of the State of Israel, but especially after 1967, Zionism has become a central tenet for the vast majority of Jews, central to their Jewish identity and their beliefs as Jews. Nevertheless, a minority, like Tony Judt, an ex-Zionist, could be critical of Zionism per se. But this is very different than when the United Nations once declared that Zionism was racism, a resolution later rescinded. This year in Vienna at a UN conference on 28 February 2013 dedicated to dialogue between Islam and the West, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Errdogan insisted that Islamophobia should be, like Zionism, fascism and anti-semitism, declared a crime against humanity. He did not just say that he did not regard Jewish beliefs in self-determination to be unacceptable and akin to calls for Armenian or Kurdish calls for self-determination, but dubbed it a crime to be a Zionist, and this in the name of tolerance for Islam. In that context, anti-Zionism can be equated with anti-Semitism.

Contrast Obama’s speech with Erdogan’s when Obama addressed a conference of Muslims in Cairo on 4 June 2009. His opening words are worth quoting in full.

I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress… We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam. Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust. So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end. I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

Within this framework, Obama directly addressed the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied… Denying that fact [the death of six
million in the Holocaust] is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve."

Obama then went on to address the situation of the Palestinians.

The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own… the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires…Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society…America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Barack Obama has been clear and unequivocal all along. He supports a two state solution. He opposes settlements. He supports a united Jerusalem. In his 12 May interview with Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic, Obama went further. Obama as a kid who never felt rooted expressed a visceral identification with the Zionism taught to him at camp by a Jewish-American – of return to a homeland, of preserving a culture and the idea of social justice that was embodied in the early Zionist movement and the kibbutz, that gave him an "enormous emotional attachment and sympathy for Israel, mindful of its history, mindful of the hardship and pain and suffering that the Jewish people have undergone, but also mindful of the incredible opportunity that is presented when people finally return to a land and are able to try to excavate their best traditions and their best selves." In addition to the great resonance the Jewish story had with the African-American experience. Obama clearly identified with "the fundamental premise of Israel and the need to preserve a Jewish state that is secure. is, I think, a just idea and one that should be supported here in the United States and around the world…I think the idea of Israel and the reality of Israel is one that I find important to me personally. Because it speaks to my history of being uprooted, it speaks to the African-American story of exodus, it describes the history of overcoming great odds and a courage and a commitment to carving out a democracy and prosperity in the midst of hardscrabble land. One of the things I loved about Israel when I went there is that the land itself is a metaphor for rebirth, for what’s been accomplished. What I also love about Israel is the fact that people argue about these issues, and that they’re asking themselves moral questions."

Sometimes I’m attacked in the press for maybe being too deliberative. My staff teases me sometimes about anguishing over moral questions. I think I learned that partly from Jewish thought, that your actions have consequences and that they matter and that we have moral imperatives. The point is, if you look at my writings and my history, my commitment to Israel and the Jewish people is more than skin-deep and it’s more than political expediency. When it comes to the gut issue, I have such ardent defenders among my Jewish friends in Chicago. I don’t think people have noticed how fiercely they defend me, and how central they are to my success, because they’ve interacted with me long enough to know that I’ve got it in my gut…I’ve been in the foxhole with my Jewish friends, so when I find on the national level my commitment being questioned, it’s curious…"My commitment, our commitment, to Israel’s security is non-negotiable.” Injecting a term like apartheid into the discussion doesn’t advance that goal. It’s emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it’s not what I believe. I believe that the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that, and some of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem from the fact that I’m not going to blindly adhere to whatever the most hawkish position is just because that’s the safest ground politically. I want to solve the problem, and so my job in being a friend to Israel is partly to hold up a mirror and tell the truth and say if Israel is building settlements without any regard to the effects that this has on the peace process, then we’re going to be stuck in the same status quo that we’ve been stuck in for decades now.

So when Daniel Pipes on 22 January 2013 writes about Barack Obama’s long held anti-Zionist views in The National Review Online, it is simply incredulous. The fact that Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor, who endorsed Obama for re-election "thought that there would come a time when [Obama] would renege on . . . his support of Israel," does not undermine my incredulity but enlarges it. Suggesting that Obama is reverting to his early anti-Zionist views when there is no evidence that he held such views because he listened to a talk by Edward Said (I had had lunch with Edward Said after I became a Zionist) or because he consorted with Rashid Khalidi with whom I myself worked on his reformulation of the "right of return" to Palestine rather their original homes, is simply a fraud.

Andrew Preston in his 2012 book, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy, correctly locates Obama’s views in Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christian realism in which faith provides the moral core of foreign policy and a moral compass for a foreign policy rooted in realism and a recognition that serious evil exists in the world but that it must be challenged and counter-acted by just war in pursuit of a just peace. Expect Obama to do that, but as a facilitator and not one who will impose a solution on either the Israelis or the Palestinians, and as someone who will put America’s interests first and foremost, but interests guided by his moral compass of support for the security of Israel and for self-determination by the Palestinian people.

Monday The Blackness of Obama

[Category 
politics]

[Tags 
Obama, Palestine, Israel, settlements, Jerusalem, Zionism, Islam]

Obama 23.Religion.Politics.07.03.13.doc