On Feb. 23, the Trump administration announced the U.S. embassy in Israel will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14. Some people are celebrating while others are livid. Angry Palestinian leaders including Mahmoud Abbas claim America has jeopardized its role as mediator in the Middle East peace process. The question that begs to be asked is: what peace process?
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has long been considered one of the world’s most intricate conflicts. There have been a number of opportunities for peace talks yet all have been unsuccessful and had nothing to do with the U.S. embassy location.
A number of explanations for these failures have been given, among which the most convincing is the role the perpetuation of the conflict has played in strengthening the Palestinian victimhood. Benefitting from the long-term conflict, Palestinian leaders have exploited their own people for personal gain.
It is said that conflict provides even the most marginalized organizations with the potential to invoke fear. This is illustrated by the “days of rage” and other violent responses Palestinian leaders have orchestrated as a result of moving the embassy. They take advantage of the ongoing conflict to persuade and manipulate their people into behaving violently against perceived change to the status quo such as metal detectors leading up to Temple Mount, put in place to protect all civilians against recent upheaval.
The world is sadly missing the counterproductive way in which the Palestinian leaders are employing violence as a bargaining tool whose ultimate goal is to inhibit peace.
In the words of Nikki Haley, the U.S ambassador to the United Nations, “The Palestinian leadership has a choice to make between two different paths. There is the choice between absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence. That path has led and will continue to lead, to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people. Or there is the path of negotiation and compromise. History has shown that path to be successful for Egypt and Jordan including the transfer of territory. That path remains open to the Palestinian leadership if only it is courageous enough to take it.”
Furthermore, the U.S.’s sovereign decision to move the embassy will take place despite the refusal of Palestinian leaders to accept it. Whether or not you agree with the embassy move, it’s a legitimate decision a sovereign nation can make. The embassy move is entirely legal and will be relocated to an undisputed part of West Jerusalem.
For the Jewish people, Jerusalem is not just a physical place with an abundance of Jewish history; it is a religious concept that surpasses time. At the annual Passover Seder, Jews reaffirm this connection through their proclamation of, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Thus, it is only natural for a sovereign state like Israel to have the right to independently define where its capital should be located.
Unfortunately, this is not applied when it comes to Israel, as it relentlessly faces more criticism and condemnation than any other country from the UN and countless other political organizations. This includes countries who systematically kill, torture and deny its citizens of basic human rights on a daily basis. For example, in a 2017 U.N. General Assembly, there were nine resolutions on Israel and only six on the rest of the world including one for Syria.
It is time to put an end to the obsessive focus on the American decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to instead, begin figuring out a way to help release the Palestinian people from the clutches of their oppressive leaders. This can only be accomplished when the world begins to recognize where the root of the conflict actually lies.
Contributed by Sam Goodman, CAMERA Fellow at Carleton University.