‘Let’s Just Get This Done!” So says Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) – underscored by the recent defeat the U.S. handed itself at the hands of the Palestinian Authority and at Israel’s expense.
What better time than now for President Trump to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with the world media trumpeting how the PLO scored a diplomatic victory at his expense last week?
Very simply, what happened was that the Trump administration retreated from its threat to close the PLO mission in Washington, even though the PLO/Fatah had breached the U.S. law-backed provisions enabling it to remain it open. Specifically, the Palestinian Authority had announced it would seek the prosecution of Israelis at the International Criminal Court in The Hague – precisely what it is not allowed to do under the American terms.
Mahmoud Abbas was infuriated at the America’s intention to enforce its own laws, and said he would cut off all communications with the U.S. if the mission were closed. Talk about the mouse that roared!
Washington was apparently sufficiently concerned at the PLO reaction that it embarked on several days of frantic negotiations with the would-be state founded by the father of modern terrorism, Yasir Arafat. When the dust settled, the Americans had backtracked, allowing the mission to remain open while “advising” the PLO to use it only for “activities related to” the peace process. And even that weak requisite will be in force for only 90 days, if serious peace talks are considered to be underway.
All this, despite the refusal of the PA to fulfill the most basic conditions for peace set repeatedly by the U.S. over the past decade. Most recently, special envoy Jason Greenblatt stated that the PA must commit to nonviolence, recognize Israel, accept previous agreements, disarm terrorists, and commit to peaceful negotiations (practically a word-for-word copy, as Palestinian Media Watch has noted, of Obama administration demands in 2009…).
Yet the PA continues to do the exact opposite: It glorifies and rewards violence and terror, refuses to disarm terrorists but rather pays them, rejects recognition of Israel, and incites against Israel with hate speech and anti-Semitic imagery.
The question thus asks itself: What better time than now to make a proud, pro-Israel and anti-terrorism decision to move the Embassy to Jerusalem? The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 calls for exactly that – unless the president signs a six-month waiver. He is legally permitted to do so only if he believes the move would present a security challenge to the United States – something that can actually not be envisioned under the current Mideast geopolitical constellation.
In this light, Congressman Jordan’s exhortation at a hearing earlier this month takes on significant urgency: “Let’s just get it done!”
Jordan said it is unacceptable that of all the nearly 190 countries in which the U.S. maintains an embassy, the only one where it is not situated in the capital city is Israel – “the one country in the world that stands with us on every single issue, and the one from which we derive our Judeo-Christian ethic.”
“This is real simple to me,” Rep. Jordan said. “It’s about remembering your friends. It’s about loyalty, and about remembering that there is one country in the world that stands with us every single time – and yet this is the one country that we don’t have our embassy where’s it supposed to be…. Especially since the president campaigned on this very issue, and showed great courage in saying that this is the right thing to do. So let’s just get it done!”
If Trump does not sign the waiver – that is, if he does nothing – then sometime next week the Embassy will automatically have to be moved to Jerusalem. The State Department will then lose a full half of its funding for maintaining embassy buildings abroad until the secretary of state reports to Congress that the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.
The new embassy could therefore open exactly 68 years to the week that Jerusalem was first declared the capital of modern Israel, on December 5, 1949, a few months after the War of Independence ended.
In the Congressional hearing on this issue earlier this month, Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, of the Northwestern University School of Law, made a fascinating point. An American foreign policy stance that keeps its embassy in Tel Aviv, he said, is “dangerous to Israel, discrediting to the U.S., and fundamentally incoherent.”
He elaborated on this point in his written presentation. Kontorovich writes that in 1947, the UN passed Resolution 181 – the Partition Plan that called for the area to be divided into three non-contiguous Jewish sectors, four non-contiguous Arab sectors, and a “corpus separatum” of internationalized Jerusalem. This proposal was a non-starter – physically unworkable, not legally binding, and totally rejected by the Arab states. It is therefore logical that in most of its provisions, the U.S. totally ignores Resolution 181; it does not recognize Jaffa as an Arab city, nor does it consider Bethlehem part of Jerusalem.
In only one way does the U.S. continue to grant credence to the moot resolution: It considers Jerusalem an “unresolved” issue that must be left for final-status negotiations. If the U.S. were to be consistent, it would grant Bethlehem the same “unresolved” status, since Resolution 181 considers it part of Jerusalem. Instead, though, the U.S. considers Bethlehem a part of the Palestinian Authority.
“The insistence on maintaining the policy legacy of a hypothetical corpus separatum when it comes to Israel but not the Palestinians,” writes Kontorovich, “locks in a deeply anti-Israel bias in America’s regional diplomacy. The [resulting] refusal to locate the Embassy in Jerusalem is both anachronistic and incoherent. What is worse, by giving deference to pre-1948 border proposals, the Embassy’s current location casts a permanent question mark on the U.S.’s acceptance of the State of Israel…. By refusing to even give force to Israel’s sovereignty within the 1949 Armistice lines, any U.S. brokering of a peace process loses all credibility. Moreover, this encourages Arab maximalism by implying that Israel is a uniquely probationary state, and suggesting they have some say in territory that was never under Arab control…. All this is deeply discrediting to U.S. diplomacy.”
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