Monday, January 16, 2017

Another Flashpoint Coming: U.S. Embassy Move To Jerusalem

With a gun on his hip, on November 13, 1974, PLO chief Yasser Arafat stood before the UN General Assembly and made the West an offer that it didn’t refuse.

At the end of a long speech in which he rewrote history to erase all connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel and criminalized the very notion of Jewish freedom, Arafat declared, “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

Arafat’s offer has served since that time as the foundation of European relations with the Palestinians and the wider Islamic world. It has also been the basis of US-PLO relations for the better part of the past four decades.

His trade was simple and clear.

If you stand with the PLO in its war to annihilate Israel and deny Jewish freedom, then PLO terrorists and our Arab state supporters will leave you alone.

If you refuse to join our war against the Jewish state, we will kill you.

Today, Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, is reiterating Arafat’s offer.

Speaking Saturday at the Vatican after the Holy See decided to recognize “Palestine,” Abbas said that if US President-elect Donald Trump goes ahead with his plan to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, it will “fuel extremism in our region, as well as worldwide.”

Abbas’s spokesman was more explicit. Saturday night, Osama Qawasmeh, spokesman for Abbas’s Fatah PLO faction and member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, said that if the US moves its embassy to Israel’s capital city, “The gates of hell will be opened in the region and the world.”

Abbas and Qawasmeh also said that the PLO expects that members of the international community will make Trump see the light and abandon his plan.

French President Francois Hollande’s “peace conference” on Sunday was the international community’s way of fulfilling Abbas’s demand.

As multiple commentators have noted, the conference’s purpose wasn’t to promote the prospects for peace. It was to constrain Trump’s policy options for handling the Palestinian war against Israel.

By bringing together representatives of some 70 countries to insist that Israeli homeowners are the moral equivalent of Palestinian terrorists, Hollande and his comrades hoped to box Trump into their PLO-compliant policy.

Spelling out the demand Trump is required to accept, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc-Ayrault parroted the Palestinian threats.

Asked by the French media Sunday if moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem would provoke the Palestinians, Ayrault said, “Of course.”

He then demeaned Trump’s plan to move the embassy as nothing but the regular bluster of American politicians.

In his words, “I think he [Trump] would not be able to do it. It would have extremely serious consequences and it’s not the first time that it’s on the agenda of a US president, but none has let himself make that decision.”

Ayrault is correct about Trump’s predecessors.

Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the Paris conference as a “futile” relic of a period that is about to end.

Netanyahu said that the conference’s goal of boxing Israel into an untenable framework for dealing the Palestinians was nothing more than the “final palpitations of a yesterday’s world.”

“Tomorrow,” he intoned, “will look a lot different. And tomorrow is very close.”

Trump will take office on Friday. Since he was elected, he has given every reason to believe that Abbas and his deputies and their European and American enablers will have to either put up or shut up.

Speaking of the president-elect, Henry Kissinger said that Trump is the first man in recent memory who doesn’t owe anybody anything for his victory.

The only people he is answerable to are the voters who elected him.

Trump’s electoral victory owes to his success in tapping into the deep reservoir of popular disaffection with the elitist culture and policies that have governed post-Cold War West. He has used the mandate he received from American voters to revisit the basic assumptions that have driven US policies for the past generation.

Trump’s position on the PLO and the Palestinian war on Israel is of a piece with his wider rejection of the common wisdom of Western elites. Just as he didn’t hesitate to say that the EU mainly serves as an instrument for Germany to dominate the European market, so he has made no mystery of his rejection of the moral equivalence between Israel and Palestinian terrorists which forms the basis of the twostate formula.

Not only won’t Trump join the Obama administration and the French in criminalizing Israeli homeowners, Trump is celebrating them. He has invited the leaders of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria – that is, the so-called “settlements” – to attend his inauguration.

And he appears dead serious about moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Under these circumstances, Israel has the opportunity and the obligation to end the PLO’s ability to threaten the US, not to mention itself. It is Israel’s duty to ensure that the next time the PLO tries to exact a price in blood for America’s refusal to abide by the terms of Arafat’s blackmail, his terrorist group is finally destroyed.

Similarly, Israel is now obliged to take the lead and abandon the PLO-friendly two-state policy, which blames Israel for Palestinian terrorism, and adopt a strategy that works in its place.

Netanyahu has refused to consider any alternative until after Barack Obama is out of office.

Consultations must be scheduled for Saturday night

Analysis: If the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem, are we looking at a new intifada?

In less than one week, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, replacing Barack Obama in the White House and on the world stage.

The relationship between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been a testy one at best, and publicly hostile at the worst of times. Netanyahu has clearly stated his support for Trump, and during a meeting between Trump and Netanyahu in September, Trump told the prime minister that he would recognize Jerusalem as the “undivided” capital of Israel.

Jerusalem’s diplomatic status, one of the most controversial subjects in the Middle East, has not been recognized by almost any country as the capital of the State of Israel, and even Americans born in Jerusalem cannot have “Israel” marked as their birth country. In 1947, the original UN partition plan referred to it as corpus separatum, a city administered by an international body whose exact political status would be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

After Israel liberated the city in 1967, just a handful of embassies were located in Jerusalem.

After 1982, only Costa Rica and El Salvador remained, until 2006. The rest are based in Tel Aviv.

And despite David Friedman, the nominee for US ambassador to Israel, being one of the strongest advocates for moving the embassy, Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon, James Mattis, named Tel Aviv as Israel’s seat of government during his confirmation hearing last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Almost all presidential candidates, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, made the same pledge to move the embassy, but once inaugurated backed down on their promise, invoking the executive waiver to the 1995 congressional mandate to relocate the embassy stating that it was not in the American national interest at that time.

The waiver has been re-signed every six months for the past 22 years, with the latest waiver signed by Obama expiring on June 1, meaning Trump would not be able to begin the process until six months into his term as president. Those six months will likely see strong push backs against many of his policies, including moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

But if Trump does decide to push forward with the move, what awaits is a potentially dangerous situation for Israel, the Palestinians and the United States in regard to their diplomatic standing in the already volatile Middle East.

It won’t only be Israel that will see chaos if Trumps follows through on his promise – it is very likely riots will break out across Muslim-majority countries targeting the US and Israel.

According to Michael Koplaw, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, the Jordanian government has even called moving the embassy a redline – and that, he told The Jerusalem Post, “is something that should not be taken lightly. We can’t assume that the embassy will be moved, but if it does get moved, you have to assume that there will be violence and protests of some sort, whether it be ‘officially’ sanctioned by groups or if there will be protests against American embassies.”

While Trump has already indicated several departures from traditional American foreign policy, his pledge to move the US Embassy has alarmed many, and has led to the Palestinians warning that “the gates of hell will be opened in the region and the world.”

According to Israel Radio, the subject of the embassy relocation was the chief topic of religious sermons throughout the West Bank prior to a deadly truck ramming attack in Jerusalem which left four soldiers dead. The relatives of the attacker, Fadi al-Qunbar, said he carried out the attack after hearing the sermon at his local east Jerusalem mosque, and “was very angry, and said transferring the embassy would lead to war.”

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