When I first heard the news about President Donald Trump’s announcement, my first reaction was this is a stupid move. However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was not going to have an adverse effect on the Middle East.
I have always believed the entire city of Jerusalem belongs to Israel. For more than 3,000 years Jerusalem has been the center of Jewish life. Therefore, it is only natural that Israel would declare Jerusalem its capital.
Wednesday, Dec. 6, Trump made history when he recognized this reality. As expected, the Arab world denounced Trump’s action as did the rest of the world’s leaders.
At the end of the Six Day War in 1967, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and for the first time in 19 years, it was an open and united city. The Muslims and Christians controlled their religious sites, and the Jews controlled their religious sites. This was not the case before 1967.
Now the critics believe this will cause turmoil in the Arab world, and that the new policy will bring an end to the Israeli Palestinian peace process. But, take a look at the real world. Arab countries were in turmoil before the Dec. 6 announcement. And the Israeli Palestinian peace process was all but dead. Many also believe this move kills the two-state solution.
People seem to forget the U.S. Congress was the first to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1995 with the passage of legislation requiring the U.S. to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Since that time every U.S. president has signed a six-month waiver to keep the embassy move on hold.
Let us look at the situation as it actually is. First, Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem during the 2016 campaign. Some suggest by keeping this promise, Trump’s credibility has increased with the Arabs because he keeps his word.
Second, neither Trump nor Israel has made any indication there would be changes in the way Jerusalem is governed. The city will still be united and open. The religious sites will still be controlled by the various religions. And Trump indicated there still could be negotiations on some kind of arrangement regarding Jerusalem in a peace accord.
Third, nowhere did Trump say that recognition would be the end of a two-state solution. Trump has always said if this is what Israel and the Palestinians agree to he will support it.
Fourth, the U.S. is still the only country that can broker a Middle East peace. Russia allied with Iran would not be acceptable to either side as a legitimate broker. What country would be willing or capable to make the financial commitment as the US did to ensure the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979?
Finally, the Arab world needs the U.S. in its confrontation with Iran. Saudi Arabia would not risk dealing with Iran alone. To take this a little further, the secret alliance between Israel and some Arab states in regards to Iran is only going to strengthen because it is beneficial to both.
Trump has decided the old Middle East policy is not working. One thing is necessary we must accept the facts as they are. Recognizing Jerusalem will not be a barrier to peace. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial made clear, “If the movement of an American Embassy that was signaled more than 20 years ago is enough to scuttle peace talks, then maybe the basis for peace doesn’t yet exist.”
If the Palestinians truly want their own state and if they truly want peace, they will recognize Israel’s right to exist and negotiate a peace accord.
Gary Porter is a long-time businessman in North Dakota where also served two terms in the North Dakota House of Representatives and was the Republican candidate for Congress in 1994. He served as the chairman and executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party. He now lives in Plymouth and has joined the JCRC’s Speakers Bureau.