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Quick Takes: On Jerusalem, Trump Plays to His Base . . .

Ralph Seliger
December 7, 2017


by Ralph Seliger

THE PRESIDENT’S DECISION to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is a typical Trump move, pleasing his strongest supporters while doing nothing concretely positive. He’s winning kudos from Evangelical Christians and hard-right Zionists, including, most importantly, Sheldon Adelson, who backed his presidential campaign to the tune of at least 25 million dollars.

Trump’s statement does not rule out redrawing Jerusalem’s boundaries or negotiations for a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, but the damage he’s created is incalculable. Given the explosive history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is a virtual certainty that this will cost lives. Calls for a Third Intifada abound, opening “the gates of hell” according to Hamas and a pronouncement of “war” from Islamic Jihad.

Most Israelis have greeted the news as an overdue recognition of reality, with similar sentiments expressed by the centrist American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League. Israel’s institutions of government — the Knesset, the prime minister’s residence and offices, the Supreme Court, and most governmental ministries — are already situated in Jerusalem. A surprising exception is Israel’s equivalent to the Pentagon, “The Kirya,” located in Tel Aviv, where all foreign embassies currently reside as well.

Trump’s declaration undermines any possible return to negotiations by the PLO/Palestinian Authority. The PLO may finally abandon efforts toward a two-state solution and work toward a “rights-based” resolution of equal citizenship within one state that extends from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. If this “South African model” succeeded, it would put an end to a sovereign state for the Jewish people, an end to the crowning achievement of the Zionist movement, which established the one place in the world where Jews exercise a measure of control over their fate as Jews, providing a safe harbor for fellow Jews threatened by stormy or hostile political seas, and where Jewish culture may thrive.

It also complicates Israel’s diplomatic relations with the world, especially raising the immediate prospect of a new diplomatic rupture with Turkey. More importantly, it potentially weakens Israel’s burgeoning (if informal) alliance with Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states.

In short, this is a Trump special, playing to the plaudits of his crowd, spreading chaos and consternation in its wake while building nothing of value.

Ralph Seliger, a JC contributing writer, is a veteran editor, freelance writer, and blogger. He edited Israel Horizons from 2003 until 2011, when it was discontinued, and currently co-administers The Third Narrative website.