Wednesday, December 6, 2017

US embassy to Jerusalem. Why the Muslim call for violence?

(This essay has been posted app 4 hours before a scheduled speech by  Donald Trump about Jerusalem and the US embassy in Israel. Will that speech cover some of the issues below?)

Have you noticed what's been happening since US President Donald Trump began more than a year ago to talk about moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? Muslims, including those calling themselves 'Palestinians', have been promising violence if Trump did as he promised  (William Jacobson, "U. S. recognizes Jerusalem as Capital of Israel, Palestinian Days of Rage to follow", legalinsurrection, December 6 , 2017).

Before you say, it's Trump's fault for talking about moving the embassy, you should remember several things. First, according to diplomatic custom, nations establish their diplomatic missions (its embassy) in a host nation's capital city (Humaira Shariq, "Understanding the concept of diplomatic missions", linkedin, March 9, 2015). If Israel calls Jerusalem its capital, that's where a foreign embassy would go.

Two, the United States follows this custom, particularly with important Allies--except with Israel. For example, as of 1995, Israel was the only country in the world in which the American embassy was located outside the host country's capital (Congressional Record-House, page 29152, October 24, 1995). For America's allies, that still holds true--except for Israel.

Three, the location of the American embassy in Israel is not a subject in Arab-Israel peace negotiations. Indeed, it has always been assumed that any discussion of where in Israel the US embassy should be located "should only come after the successful conclusion of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal" ("Israel envoy: US embassy move to Jerusalem a step forward for peace", timesofisrael, December 21, 2016). That still holds true.

Finally--and  most important--moving a US embassy to West Jerusalem should not be an automatic casus belli (as the Palestinian Authority (PA) has claimed) because the only part of Jerusalem Abbas officially claims for a Palestinian capital is East Jerusalem (News Brief, "Abbas: No Palestinian state without East Jerusalem", arutzsheva, December 5, 2017). Did Trump say he'd be moving the US embassy to East Jerusalem? I don't think so. What's Abbas' problem?

Trump has not specified where in Jerusalem the embassy would go. He left that out of his announcements.

Nevertheless, Abbas and his friends went nuclear. He hasn't (to my knowledge) sought public clarification of where in Jerusalem the embassy would be placed. But his reaction was very clear: he chose violence and threats, not peace.

This is a crucial point. If Abbas is truly sincere about his claim that it is only East Jerusalem that he wants for his 'Palestine' capital, why should he care if the US places an embassy to Israel in West Jerusalem. He shouldn't care.

If Trump says 'US embassy in Jerusalem', why should Abbas threaten some form of Armageddon. He should ask, 'where in Jerusalem are you going to put this embassy for Israel?'

That's the key question.  But it's a question he ignores.

Now, everyone is in an uproar because Trump is also supposed to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital. With a disputed city like Jerusalem, it wouldn't be outside the bounds of diplomacy for the US to call Jerusalem the capital of Israel--meaning West Jerusalem; and then call Jerusalem--meaning East Jerusalem--the capital of 'Palestine'.
Has Abbas or any of his allies asked for such a clarification? They haven't. Instead, they threaten violence. They speak of war: 

-Palestinians warn “the gates of hell will be opened in the region and the world” (Anna Ahronheim, “Analysis: if the US embassy moves to Jerusalem, are we looking at a new Intifada?”,  jerusalempost, January 16, 2017);

-"Top PA Imam: Moving US embassy to Jerusalem a declaration of war on Islam", timesofisrael, January 8, 2017; notice, this declaration doesn't come from some rogue Islamic cleric outside the Palestinian mainstream. It's from the Palestinian Authority’s supreme Sharia judge Mahmoud Al-Habbash (ibid);

-In case you thought such a warlike sentiment was limited to the religious leadership of the PA, you're wrong. It was repeated by Senior Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub (Avi Issacharoff, "Senior Palestinian official: moving US embassy a declaration of war against Muslims",  timesofisrael, January 23, 2017).

-Dalit Halevy, "Hamas: violence will sweep the region [if US recognizes 'Jerusalem' as Israel's capital]", arutzsheva, December 6, 2017. 

-"Gazans  burn US, Israeli flags ahead of Trump recognition of Jerusalem", timesofisrael, December 6, 2017.

Palestinians call a US recognition of Jerusalem a 'kiss of death' (Jerusalem Trump: US recognition 'kiss of death' for peace process", bbcnews, December 6, 2017).

Is the Palestinian leadership so intent to go to war against Israel that it will use any excuse to do that? Seems to me that, if the PA was really interested in peace, it wouldn't (in this discussion) threaten war, burn flags or talk of 'death'. It wouldn't be talking about opening the gates of hell. It would ask for public clarifications of the American intentions--in order to keep the peace.

Why this language of war and violence? 

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