by Dana Aliya Levinson
Now that Donald Trump is the President of the United States, I was thinking how can I resist his agenda? I decided on “100 Days of Resistance”. Every single day for the next 100 days I will post another piece that resists President Trump and his administration. This will come in the form of personal stories as a member of a marginalized group that is threatened under President Trump’s administration, as well as pieces on broader issues that face our nation thanks to him. Today’s piece is on the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict and moving our embassy to Jerusalem.
There has been much talk over the years and saber rattling from Republicans about moving our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. While this has been a staple of a far-right agenda for over two decades, there has yet to be a President who is willing to carry it out. This is because once again, there is a lack of understanding of global flashpoints. Before diving into why this move is a yuuuuge mistake, it’s important to talk a little bit about the state of Israeli politics.
After the failure of the Oslo Accords at the end of Bill Clinton’s Presidency and the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the so called ‘peace camp’ in Israeli politics experienced a major setback. The idea of a two state solution lost credibility for much of the Israeli electorate as they felt they took a risk, reached out an olive branch to the Palestinians and made what they felt were large concessions in an effort to make peace, and what they got was the second intifada. The assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by a far-right Jewish sympathizer splintered the Israeli electorate even further. Since Oslo, with the exception of a brief moment under Prime Minister Sharon and Tzipi Livni, the ‘peace camp’ has largely been decimated. Even many liberals in Israel are skeptical of reaching any sort of accord with the Palestinians, despite the fact that the Palestinians have different leadership than the Oslo era.
Going along with this growing skepticism about peace in the Israeli electorate is the growing acceptance of the settlement movement. The settlements in the Gaza Strip were all disassembled by Prime Minister Sharon. But since Sharon, under Prime Minister Netanyahu, the settlements in the West Bank have seen a major expansion. According to prior agreements, the West Bank is supposed to be the territory on which the Palestinians build their future state. The Israeli settlements have chipped away at that land, tacitly annexing what was supposed to be Palestinian territory and changing the facts on the ground in a way that will soon make a two state solution impossible, if it hasn’t already.
The settlements have not only chipped away at hope for a peace accord, but in real time they have destroyed Palestinian farmland, separated families, destroyed Palestinian water supplies, and given rise to increasing tensions between the settlers and the Palestinians. The issue is that Netanyahu needs the pro-settler parties to maintain his hold on power because they are part of his increasingly fragile governing coalition. The realpolitik of the situation for him is that supporting the settler movement is more politically advantageous than going against it. However, soon, the Israelis will either need to annex the West Bank entirely or let it go. Should that happen, Israel will have two options; they can either give all of the Palestinians living in the West Bank full Israeli citizenship, like the approximately twenty-five percent of Israel’s population who currently live within the recognized borders of the state of Israel who are Arab, or they can ethnically cleanse the West Bank, which some argue is already happening by way of the destruction of Palestinian land and communities to make way for Israeli settlements. The former would be a problem because the Palestinian birthrate is higher than the Jewish one. Demographically, within two generations, an Israel that annexed the West Bank would become a majority Palestinian state. At that point, Israel could either remain a democracy and would no longer be a ‘Jewish state,’ or, it would place restrictions on Palestinians being allowed to enter government and would retain its character as a Jewish state, but lose its character as a democracy. Former Secretary of State John Kerry wasn’t being hyperbolic. The second is a problem, because not only would it be a major human rights violation, but it would also destroy any international credibility that Israel has and would likely see large scale international calls for the overthrow of the regime even in Europe.
The Palestinians not only see the West Bank as part of their future state, but they see East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, as their capital. The international community sees Jerusalem’s status as to be determined in a final agreement between the Israeli’s and Palestinians. The current de facto capital of Palestine is Ramallah, and the capital of Israel is Tel Aviv. The Israelis cite the historic Jewish ties to the Old City, including Judaism’s holiest site; the Western Wall, which is the only remaining piece of the ancient temple from antiquity which was the seat of Israelite rule for thousands of years, until the Babylonian exile and then the diaspora causing Roman exile and destruction of the temple. Islamic ties to the Old City of Jerusalem are also deep. The two mosques constructed on the site that the Ancient Temple once stood are among the holiest sites in all of Islam. The rock contained in the Dome of the Rock Mosque, according to Islamic theology, is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. That very same rock, according to Jewish theology, is where Hashem tested Abraham’s faith by instructing him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis say that the status of Jerusalem is for them, non-negotiable.
President Trump claims that he would like to be the one who finally solves the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict. Appointing a US ambassador who is pro-settler in David Friedman, and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, will certainly not help. In fact, these two things could mark the final nail in the coffin for the two-state solution. As outlined earlier, overt support for the settlement movement will eventually make the two-state solution impossible and over time destroy the Jewish state from within. However, the far-right in Israeli politics sees the Old City as the rightful and historical capital for the Jewish people. Many in the far-right in Israel believe that Israeli dominion over it is divine right. The settler movement not only wants to de-facto take over the West Bank, they would like to see the Israeli capital officially moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The US moving our embassy to Jerusalem is a tacit recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Meanwhile, Senior Palestinian officials have said that they would view such a move as an act of war. It could easily spark a third intifada as Mahmoud Abbas’ political power and therefore ability to stop it, gets weaker and weaker. Traditionally, the US has been the only country with significant enough leverage over the Israeli government to force them to make concessions in negotiations with the Palestinians. Rubber stamping the right wing and settler agenda will kill the two-state solution for good, and this seems to be the position of the Trump administration.
I am a Jew, and I consider myself a liberal Zionist. My Great Uncle is a Holocaust survivor, and my family is descended from pogroms and destroyed villages. Despite high rates of US assimilation, anti-Semitism still exists in this country and around the world. In fact, the election of Donald Trump brought much of that latent ant-Semitism out into the open. The history of our diaspora has been one of discrimination and of genocide, first at the hands of the Spanish in the sixteenth century, and then at the hands of the Germans in the twentieth. I believe, as a Jew, it is important for us to have a voice on the world stage and a place we can call our homeland so that Jews can be advocated for worldwide. This said, I also consider myself pro-Palestinian, and I do not see these things as paradoxical. I do not support the settlement movement, I believe in the right of Palestinians to self-determination, and recognize what I feel are major human rights violations on the part of the Israeli government in the West Bank. If President Trump is viewed as legitimizing the idea of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital without a bilateral status agreement, or if he blesses continued settlement building, this will mean that a one state solution will be the only future. If the two state solution is killed, it will mark the beginning of the end of Israel as a Jewish State, or the end of Israeli Democracy. Because of this, President Trump is the biggest threat to Israel in generations.
Donate to Our Kickstarter! http://kck.st/2jdRqjo