AMID the global controversy over President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, Israeli and Palestinian leaders actually found rare consensus — they agreed that the development was a win for Israel and a loss for the Palestinians, writes ANDREW TOBIN.
To be sure, Trump’s concession was not a major one.
Israel was always expected to get a recognised capital in Jerusalem under any Middle East peace deal, and the president did not reject Palestinian claims to have their capital in the city, too.
However, the change in two decades of American policy on Jerusalem cemented the impression on both sides that America was tilting towards Israel.
With Trump’s team working on a peace deal, Israeli and Palestinian leaders debated how his decision would affect the effort.
The Israelis said their country still wants peace and Trump was only recogniaing the obvious: Israel already controls all of Jerusalem, has treated it as its capital for 69 years and was never going to settle for anything less than an acknowledgement that Jerusalem is its capital.
Whether the Palestinians can also claim parts of Jerusalem as their capital remains an open question, but that was always one of the so-called “final-status issues” at the heart of negotiations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday during a visit with French president Emanuel Macron that Jerusalem was as much Israel’s capital as Paris was France’s and that recognition of this fact was necessary for peace.
“I think that what peace requires is to be built on the foundation of truth, on the facts of the past and on the present,” Netanyahu said.
“This is the only way that you can build a pluralistic and successful future.”
More important, Israeli leaders contended, Trump gave the Palestinians a long overdue reality check. They said the president showed that he would not indulge the Palestinians’ attempts to deny Israel’s existence.
Netanyahu made that equation explicit in a meeting on Monday with European foreign ministers in Brussels.
He likened the Palestinians’ opposition to recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital with their refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state, which he has long maintained was the primary obstacle to peace.
“I think we should give peace a chance,” he said in Brussels.
“I think we should see what is presented and see if we can advance this peace.
“But if we have to begin it, I would say it’s one place: Recognise the Jewish state.
“It’s always been about the Jewish state. And it’s time that the Palestinians recognise the Jewish state and also recognise the fact that it has a capital. It’s called Jerusalem.”
Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, accused Israel of having no interest in making peace on terms they could ever accept.
By giving Israel something it wants for free, they suggested, Trump signalled that he would not even try to oppose its continued settlement of eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, which they said has made nearly impossible the creation of the state the Palestinians demand as part of a peace deal.
Palestinian leaders said Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel showed once and for all that America was not an honest broker for peace.
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said that America was no longer fit to oversee the peace process. And the Palestinian leader cancelled plans to meet American vice-president Mike Pence this month in Ramallah.
But Abbas’ foreign affairs adviser Nabil Shaath said that the Palestinians had no plans to cut ties with America. “We are merely protesting the move of Mr. Trump,” he added. “Trump has acted in a way that makes it impossible for the United States to act as an honest broker. We are just expressing that.”
Meanwhile, the world awaits Trump’s plan for what he branded as the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.