Our View: Israel’s Capital
OpinionOur View

Our View: Israel’s Capital

The U.S. recognition of Jerusalem's reality has the chance of reviving the needed bilateral peace process.

President Donald Trump’s statement Wednesday, Dec. 6, acknowledging 68 years late the reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem should be read for what he did and did not say.

Trump did not say a “unified Jerusalem” is the capital, and he specified that the final status of the city as a whole, like a two-state peace solution, is a matter of negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump could have done more to tie his announcement to a revival of the moribund peace process. He could have specified that the U.S. Embassy will be established in an area of Jerusalem that has been under internationally accepted Israeli sovereignty for nearly 70 years. He could have announced a plan to upgrade the U.S. Consulate in eastern Jerusalem to serve as an embassy to the Palestinian Authority, with the expectation of its serving the same role in a future Palestinian state.

Separate the message from the man, and you have the United States correcting a mistake dating to the Truman administration. The only reason the United States did not recognize Jerusalem then was the faint hope that the Arab world would accept the terms of the 1947 U.N. resolution that proposed interlocking Jewish and Arab states.

Cartoon by Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

That resolution included a provision that Jerusalem would be an international city, a corpus separatum (separate body), a diplomatic creation that does not exist in this world. The Arab rejection of the partition plan included the rejection of that special status.

To judge by the reactions from the Palestinians, our European allies and many others, you’d think the two sides were days away from a permanent peace when Trump torched those hopes with his announcement. Trump has been condemned. Israel has been condemned. The Jewish people have been condemned.

Not only have the Palestinians launched violent protests, including rocket fire from Gaza and terrorism in Jerusalem and other cities, but Jews in Europe, who are neither Israelis nor Americans, have come under attack. And the reactions from the same “leaders” who condemn U.S. acknowledgment of reality have ranged from shrugs to expressions of understanding and even support for Arab anger.

It’s ridiculous that global expectations for the Palestinians are so low that people expect and accept violence in response to words. It’s outrageous that any Jew anywhere can be seen as a justifiable target of that violence.

No peace process existed Dec. 5, and the Palestinians had shown no intention of ever negotiating in good faith, opting to wait for international resolutions and demands to force a solution on Israel. It’s reasonable to hope that the honesty of the statement Dec. 6 will force the Palestinians to re-evaluate their approach and talk about a deal while it’s still possible.

History, including Israel’s treaty with Egypt and the 1993 Oslo Accords, shows that bilateral negotiations are the only path to peace between Israel and its neighbors. The United States has a role as a mediator and a guarantor of any agreement, but a process or plan pushed on the parties from the outside will never succeed.

The best thing the United States can do to support a peace deal is to create conditions that compel the two sides to talk. The status quo wasn’t doing that; maybe a dose of reality will.

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