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January 09th 2017 print

Daryl McCann

Jerusalem Bound?

The last time Arabs ruled eastern Jerusalem and the Old City all but one of the Jewish Quarter’s 35 synagogues was demolished, a fact John Kerry prefers not to mention. Trump's pledge to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv would end the prospect of history repeating itself

jerusalemAs a candidate in the 2016 election season Donald Trump often talked of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was easy enough to dismiss. After all, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had made the same promise before winning the White House.

This time around might be different. For a start, David Friedman sounds like a very different kind of U.S. ambassador to Israel. Here’s Friedman responding to Trump endorsing him for the post: “I intend to work tirelessly to strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

Should the United States relocate its embassy to Jerusalem? A lot of opinion in Australia is against it, although Tony Abbott saw merit in the idea. Australia joining a move by President Trump to shift its embassy to Jerusalem could “demonstrate its unswerving support for Israel, as the Middle East’s only liberal, pluralist democracy”. Members of the Turnbull government rebuffed “talkative” Abbott’s latest idea. Shifting the embassy would exacerbate an already problematic situation, especially with regards to the “two-state solution”. Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce referred to Abbott’s comments as “not helpful”, while Foreign Minister Julie Bishop gave her former leader short shrift: “The Australian government does not have any plans to move the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Greg Barton, professor in global Islamic studies at Deakin University, made this case for retaining the status quo:

“The future of Israel for Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Israelis and for people living on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank depends upon trust and negotiation…If we went ahead and moved our embassy, following suit after the Americans to Jerusalem, we would be closing off doors of opportunity to play that mediating role.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s, not surprisingly, took an even harder line, and warned that changing the US embassy would unleash a “crisis we will not be able to come out from” for “the peace process in the Middle East and even peace in the world”. Departing Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to be reading from the same script, characterising the planned embassy change as dangerous: “You’d have an explosion, an explosion in the region, not just in the West Bank, and perhaps in Israel itself, but throughout the region.”

But so many explosions are already taking place in the Middle East and none have anything to do with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Syria’s civil war alone has resulted resulting in as many as 470,000 deaths. Perhaps this outgoing secretary of state might have found better things to do than trying to foist on Mahmoud Abbas a Palestinian mini-state (the West Bank and East Jerusalem) instead of his real goal, a fully-fledged Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Palestinian Authority has played John Kerry for a fool. The latest version of Mahmoud Abbas’ polemic naturally enough features UN Resolution 2334 and its call for East Jerusalem – including the Jewish Quarter in the Old City – to be the capital of an independent Palestinian state. According to Abbas, at any rate, it would now be “hypocritical” of the US government to move its embassy before all Israeli-Palestinian territorial disputes, not least any final agreement on Jerusalem, are resolved. John Kerry – again – is on the same page as Mahmoud Abbas: “If all of a sudden Jerusalem is declared to be the location of our embassy, that has issues of sovereignty, issues of law that would deem to be affected by that move…”

Superficially this makes some sense. In the 1947 UN partition plan for Mandatory Palestine, Jerusalem was assigned a special status – “the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem” – to distinguish it from both an independent Jewish state and an Arab counterpart.  However, the prospect of it becoming a reality vanished amidst the battles and bloodshed of the First Arab-Israeli War in 1948. At the conclusion of hostilities, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan controlled the Old City (including the Jewish Quarter) and all points east, while Israel remained in possession of the newish suburbs and districts west of the Old City.

The change of status East Jerusalem experienced after King Hussein’s army invaded West Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War should have no direct bearing on the argument. Jordan losing jurisdiction over the Old City remains immaterial to the embassy debate because Old Jerusalem is tiny and ancient and will never be the seat of any government, Israeli or Palestinian. If there is to be a mini-Palestinian state in the future, its capital will be in eastern Jerusalem, a completely separate matter from western Jerusalem.

What is John Kerry’s problem then? One possible explanation might be that the secretary of state believes the Old City, situated between modern-day western Jerusalem and modern-day eastern Jerusalem, would be better safeguarded for humanity if it were to be ruled by a “Special International Regime” as envisaged by the 1947 UN resolution. Kerry’s vision, encoded in UN Resolution 2334, is to strip Israeli authority over a united Jerusalem and clear the way for West Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem the capital of a mini-Palestinian state. This, as it happens, also keeps open the fantasy of an international body one day holding dominion over the Old City with its “holy sites that are sacred to billions of people”.

Mahmoud Abbas no doubt likes the idea of reducing Israel’s control over Jerusalem. But neither he nor his successors would ever consent to a John Kerry-type scheme that detached the Old City from Arab-Palestinian rule. President Abbas’ fervently held view is that only a Palestinian-governed Old City can guarantee freedom of worship for all monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism: “It is the right of all religions to perform their religious rituals with total comfort in Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”

Would that it were true. The last time Arabs, in the form of Jordanians, ruled eastern Jerusalem and the Old City – 1949-67 – all but one of the Jewish Quarter’s 35 synagogues was demolished. The centenarian Bernard Lewis, in Notes on a Century, reminds us that Christian Israelis were only permitted to visit the Old City, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, once a year on Christmas Day (but not the Orthodox Christmas) – so much for performing non-Islamic religious rituals with “total comfort”. Even more despicable, the “inhabitants of the ancient Jewish Quarter were evicted and even dead Jews were removed from their graves in the ancient cemeteries.”

Mahmoud Abbas’s promise of peace and mutual respect is entirely bogus. We know through agencies such as Itamar Marcus’ Palestinian Media Watch that the leadership of the Palestinian Authority promotes violence, martyrdom and an anti-Israeli psychosis among the young. The lunacy of Islamic revivalism has reached a point where PA activists are now claiming the Western Wall, the most sacred site for the Jewish population in the Old City, is actually a part of al-Aqsa Mosque.

Tel Aviv was only ever meant to be an interim capital. In 1949, after defeating five Arab armies, the State of Israel established its centre of governance in the neighbourhoods and districts of West Jerusalem. No future Israeli-Palestinian agreement will change that. For the United States – and Australia, Foreign Minister Bishop – to move its embassy to a locale in western Jerusalem would do no more than catch up with the reality of 1949. And, yes, it might also demonstrate “unswerving support for Israel, as the Middle East’s only liberal, pluralist democracy.”

Daryl McCann has a blog at darylmccann.blogspot.com.au  He tweets at @dosakamccann

Comments [9]

  1. Locating the US and other embassies in the western part of Jerusalem shouldn’t be a problem, because Palestinians state they only want the eastern part. It would let them and the world know that Palestinians don’t have ultimate say over Israel’s diplomatic relationships with other countries.

  2. Bill Martin says:

    The “two state solution” was always an illusion, simply because the Palestinians, together with all the Arabs, want only one state, the state of Palestine after the destruction of Israel. The Palestinians make no secret of that ambition, making the parroting of the two state solution a farce. Read


  3. Keith Kennelly says:

    Who cares anymore?

    We could do without any involvement in the Mid East.

  4. Matt says:

    When God intervenes, you don’t want to be in Pharaoh’s army.

  5. Warty says:

    I mean, is this Greg Barton bloke serious? I’m afraid I think he is, but closing opportunities ‘to play that mediating role’ has been the very mirage countless US presidents and their secretaries of state have being pursuing from before the Seven Days War and after. Clinton came the closest, but he had a sly, sly fox to deal with, Arafat, who had no intention of keeping his forked tongue word.
    Time for compromise is over, not least because most negotiators have sought to implement a ‘final solution’ with an Israel surrendering everything for the sake of peace. This worked well in Gaza, where the government of the day forcibly removed Israeli settlers and relocated them . . . for the sake of peace. Hamas has managed that part of the agreement very well, you must agree.
    Personally, I’d take Abbas’s bluster regarding the consequence of shifting the US embassy to Jerusalem with a grain of salt. If there is one lesson Arab dictators learnt very early on, it was to stand up to the ‘street’ in the strongest terms possible. Saddam Hussein was a past master at this, one has to concede. Don’t give an inch and the Arab street then knows where it stands. Examine the life of that mass slaughterer of men, Mohammed, and you will see this principle in action.
    If Israel cedes any more land, they will shoot themselves in the foot.

  6. PT says:

    Look, establishing Israel may have been a “mistake”. I’ve had enough discussions with members of the old “Palestinian Police”! But, it’s established, and has been so since 1948! Should Pakistan be dissolved? It too is a “religious state” and formed at the same time? How about the eastern borders of Germany? Adenauer never accepted them! Should Poland give them up?

  7. en passant says:

    Abbas says that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem ‘crosses a red line ..” How will we know? Will Hamas send more rockets from Gaza? Will they mow down people with bigger trucks? Will they use sharper knives in random attacks?

    Defund the Palestinian Authority with ‘aid’ payments only being made every 30-days in which there has not been a rocket, a stabbing, a bombing or a shooting. Any one of those occurs and payment is withheld and a note sent to Abbas saying : let’s start the clock and try again, shall we?

    Lady Macbeth will say whatever helps her into her treasonous post-politics UN job.

  8. Meniscus says:

    In many ways, history has already repeated itself in this context, particularly when it comes to the price of oil. The 1973 Yom Kippur War gave rise to the 1970s oil crisis (and the beginning of commercial shale exploration) and obscene oil prices, which then completely tanked in the mid-1980s.

    The substance of all this was recently repeated when Venezuela convinced Saudi Arabia to reinvigorate OPEC in 2005 – forcing oil prices through the roof, encouraging shale exploration – before tanking again when the Saudis got nervous about the US competition.

    Anybody want to bet whether it will all happen again in another 10-20 years? The beauty of it all is its predictability: the Saudis and OPEC will always try to bend the market and supply and demand will always win!

    I recommend this highly informative article:


  9. Some of Trump’s team were talking about the three state solution. In other words Gaza goes back to Egypt, the West Bank goes back to Jordan and Israel would be the third state. The beauty of it is that Gaza and the West Bank have no economic basis as states but being attached to real countries, that is Egypt and Jordan, would then have a proper economic basis.