Four Problems With The New York Times’ New Favorite Israel Talking Point
The New York Times has a new favorite talking point about Israel.
The talking point has cropped up recently in almost identical terms in two places.
A December 7 opinion piece by Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, headlined “Anti-Zionism Isn’t the Same as Anti-Semitism; American Jews have nothing to fear from the new congressional critics of Israel,” includes the claim that “Now, however, Israel has foreclosed the possibility of two states, relentlessly expanding into the West Bank and signaling to the world that the Palestinians will never have a capital in East Jerusalem.”
A news article in New York Times print editions of December 7 includes the same claim, contending, “Palestinian officials were incensed by Mr. Trump’s decision last year to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move they feared could undermine their efforts to establish East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.”
The Goldberg piece is problematic for reasons I hope to get into some other time, but, for now, let’s stick with the nonsense about how turning “East Jerusalem” into “the capital of a future Palestinian state” was totally plausible until either Prime Minister Netanyahu or President Trump or the combination thereof supposedly scuttled the idea.
This is nonsense for at least four reasons.
First, nothing about putting an American embassy to Israel in western Jerusalem necessarily forecloses the idea of an eventual capital of a Palestinian state in eastern Jerusalem. As President Trump said, “We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.”
Second, Israel’s official opposition to surrendering its capital or dividing it is longstanding and predates the leadership of either Trump or Netanyahu. Israel’s Basic Law on Jerusalem, passed in 1980 and amended in 2000, declares the city “complete and united” as the capital of Israel and states, “No authority that is stipulated in the law of the State of Israel or of the Jerusalem Municipality may be transferred either permanently or for an allotted period of time to a foreign body, whether political, governmental or to any other similar type of foreign body.”
Third, the Palestinian Arabs aren’t so easily going to agree to ceding Israeli sovereignty permanently over any of Jerusalem, or, for that matter, the rest of the land of Israel. In the past, Palestinian leaders such as Yasser Arafat have suggested that such concessions aren’t up to them to make, but are a matter for the broader Islamic world.
And fourth, what the Times and the Palestinian Arabs mean by “East Jerusalem” is an area that includes everything Israel reclaimed from Jordan in 1967 — the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. It’s hard to imagine an Israeli political coalition that would cede this territory, or a Palestinian leadership that Israel would be comfortable ceding that territory to.
That’s not to say there’s no part of eastern Jerusalem that might eventually serve as some sort of Palestinian Arab capital. But the idea that that’s all the Palestinians have been waiting for, and that it’s Trump and Netanyahu who suddenly and recently made it impossible, is just not supported by the facts. The Times can repeat this claim as often as it wants to, but that doesn’t make it true.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.