Thoughts on US Embassy Move to Jerusalem By Charles Lipson

Thoughts on US Embassy Move to Jerusalem

“For people who say “all this sets back the peace process,” the short answer is “what peace process?“

Since Jerusalem is actually Israel’s capital and since it will continue to be so in any putative peace settlement, I don’t see how this blocks such a settlement.

  • The US Consulate–and future Embassy–are in WEST Jerusalem. Everyone (except people who believe in Israel’s annihilation) understand that West Jerusalem will be part of Israel forever. No voluntary peace settlement will change that.
  • There was no American statement that the embassy move prevents some part of Jerusalem from being a Palestinian capital, too.
  • I don’t like hecklers’ vetoes on campus and I don’t like rioters’ vetoeselsewhere. That threat was used to try and block the move. It failed. Good.
  • The Palestinians have not exactly proven themselves partners for peace since Oslo.
    • Until now, the US had not made them pay any price for their truculence.
    • Now, it has.
  • The only way there will ever being peace, IMO, is if Israel thinks it is absolutely secure against Palestinian threats and has firm US backing against such threats.
    • Obama’s strategy made the opposite assumption. It made US support for Israel and other allies more problematic, more contingent on following US directions, and, of course, more hectoring. US friends in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and across the region understood and adjusted–against the US.
    • Trump has fundamentally reversed that policy, not only in Israel but in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere.
  • The only way many other Arab states will back off their rejectionist, maximalist demands to eliminate Israel is for them to be utterly convinced it is impossible and costly to continue.
    • Fundamentally, only Israeli military strength can convince them Israel will not be eliminated.
    • US support, including the moving of the embassy, shows that Israel cannot be completely isolated diplomatically. (Again, Obama’s moves against Israel raised question marks about diplomatic isolation.)
    • What will change the cost of Arab/Muslim/European opposition to Israel?  Two calculations:
      1. Fear of Iran, for states in the Middle East. They will edge toward alliance with other anti-Iranian states, of which Israel is the most powerful, the most technically sophisticated, and the most capable in its intelligence services.
      2. Desire for trade with a growing, sophisticated, and technologically-innovative economy.  It is called “start-up nation” for a reason. (The GDP per capita of once-poor Israel is now equal to Italy and about 20-30% below the wealthier European states. It is about 3.5x higher than Turkey, 7x higher than Iran, 10x higher than Jordan on a per capita basis.)
  • There are two fundamental obstacles to peace on the Palestinian side.
    1. They don’t have stable governance.
      • Even if they promised peace, the government might be upended and a new government reverse course.
      • Knowing that, even political moderates in the West Bank are fearful of suggesting deeper cooperation. They wouldn’t win and might well be killed.
    2. The Palestinian political class has never accepted the basic idea of a Jewish state in the region.
      • The Palestinians’ own rejection of Israel encourages that of Muslims across the region. Not that they need much encouragement.
      • That’s true of both people in the West Bank and Gaza and of their leaders.
      • The level of anti-Semitism in their schoolbooks, propaganda, and casual statements is breathtaking. . . and disgusting. One compelling piece of evidence: they actually pay monthly pensions to families of terrorists who kill Jews. The money comes from Western donors.
  • The rejectionist front against Israel now has two regional leaders: Iran, which has expanded across the region, and Turkey, which has become increasingly Islamist under Erdogan.
    • Again, Obama’s policies made these problems worse. In the case of Iran, so did Bush’s take down of Saddam Hussein without ensuring a replacement regime.
  • As with so many Trump policies, the movement of the US embassy represents a change based on a simple calculus: what we tried in the past did not work. Let’s try something different.
    • In this case, I think he’s correct.
    • There will be a short-term price to pay. But the long-run effect will be Muslim recognition that Israel cannot be exterminated (at least, by anything less than an Iranian nuclear attack). That may cause some of them to accept the reality and move on.
  • US domestic politics: Jews: most Jews follow the same path of college-educated, socially liberal Americans.
    • They are appalled by Trump personally and think his behavior in office is unbecoming. But there is a deeper shift beneath the surface.
    • The Democratic Party is increasingly anti-Israel, the Republicans pro-Israel.
      • That is leading to stronger Jewish backing for Republicans, especially among more observant Jews. There used to be almost no Jewish Republicans. Now, there are plenty.
      • Among other Jews, the Republicans association with social conservatism is a major obstacle to realignment. So is the widening distance between US Jews and Israel.
  • US domestic politics: Evangelicals. No group has supported Israel more steadfastly–or been a stronger support for Republicans. They will love this move.
  • Europe’s fecklessnesson Israel is on full display, not that anyone doubted it. It fears its own unassimilated Muslim population and assumes its antagonism to Israel will win friends in the Arab/Muslim world.
    • When historians look back at the long arc at the century beginning in 1930, they will see that Europe has traded a well-integrated Jewish minority, which Hitler exterminated, for a poorly-integrated and growing Muslim minority. The Jews accepted the basic tenets of liberal democracy. Significant elements of the Muslim minority do not.
    • Anti-Semitism in Europe is a serious problem. It combines four groups: Muslims, left-wing intellectuals, traditional anti-Semites (both upper-class and religious conservatives), and right-wing nationalists. (The movement in the US contains the first two but the last two are different. Country-club anti-Semites are a much smaller group today, and the vast majority of nationalist/patriot Americans are actually pro-Israel. Except for the fringes, they don’t have the fascist, anti-Semitic slant of Europe’s right-wing movements.)
  • Effects beyond the region: North Korea. By keeping a prominent campaign promise, Pres. Trump has made his other promises and threats more credible. That will have some effect as Beijing thinks about Trump’s threats to deal with North Korea
  • For people who say “all this sets back the peace process,” the short answer is “what peace process?

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