Tuesday, January 31st | 10 Shevat 5783

February 7, 2019 8:51 am

Waiting Out Trump?

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avatar by Mitchell Bard


A worker on a crane hangs a US flag next to an Israeli flag, near the site of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem, May 7, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun / File.

The headline in the February 5 Washington Post, “Europe’s strategy on Trump: Hope for no second term,” captured the sentiment of not only leaders around the world (outside of Israel), but former Obama officials and anti-Israel figures that many call “Arabists,” who believe they just need to hold their noses until Donald Trump disappears and they can return to the status quo ante.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry was one of the first to articulate this idea, when he met with the Iranians to reassure them that they would not have to suffer for long under US sanctions imposed by Trump. Outraged, current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “A former secretary of state engaged with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, and according to him, he was talking to them, he was telling them to wait out this administration. … You can’t find precedent for this in US history.”

A clue to the Arabist view on how waiting out Trump will affect Israel was offered by Obama’s ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, who wrote in Foreign Policy:

Democratic members of Congress and presidential candidates should commit to the following: While a Democratic administration would keep the US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, the United States would also speak openly about its expectation that any two-state solution include two capitals in a unified city, with a US embassy to the State of Palestine in Arab East Jerusalem. In order to harmonize the US diplomatic posture with the goal of two states, a Democratic administration will re-establish a US consulate general, which conducts diplomacy with the Palestinians, as a separate mission from the US Embassy to Israel, reversing Trump’s merger of the two missions.

Shapiro is probably being more generous than the Arabists, who will undoubtedly lobby to return the US embassy to Tel Aviv and withdraw recognition of Israel’s capital. Reopening the consulate reflects a longstanding strategy of officials seeking to undermine the US-Israel relationship by maintaining an independent relationship with the Palestinians that bypasses the embassy.

By ignoring history and accepting the Palestinian narrative, Shapiro buys into the notion that there is an Arab East Jerusalem. As he knows, East Jerusalem includes the Old City and its Jewish Quarter, along with many sites of importance to the Jewish religion, including the City of David, the Temple Mount, and the Western Wall. Hebrew University and the original Hadassah Hospital are also on Mount Scopus — in eastern Jerusalem.

The only time that the eastern part of Jerusalem was exclusively Arab was between 1949 and 1967, and that was because Jordan occupied the area and forcibly expelled all the Jews.

Shapiro fallaciously maintains that he supports a unified Jerusalem while calling for its division. Ironically, the only way to achieve his goal of establishing two capitals in a unified Jerusalem is by adopting Trump’s idea of making the Palestinian capital Abu Dis, essentially a suburb of Jerusalem, while leaving the integrity of Israel’s capital intact, including its sovereignty over the Old City.

What is particularly frightening about the Arabists is their intention to revert to the disastrous policies of the past. Instead of continuing to pressure the Palestinians, they want to resume the strategy of coercing Israel to make concessions. Former officials want to restore aid to the Palestinians and return to the obsessive condemnation of Israel’s settlements, based on the specious notion that Jewish communities, rather than Palestinian irredentism, are the obstacle to peace. Shapiro wants Democrats to “buy time” and “reset expectations for the U.S. approach after Trump,” thereby reassuring the Palestinians they can retain their delusions by waiting out Trump. This is a recipe for disaster.

Through cuts in aid, moving the embassy, and playing hardball at the UN, the United States has taken crucial steps toward disabusing the Palestinians of the fantasy of achieving a state based on the 1949 armistice lines with Jerusalem as their capital.

The same people who sabotaged any chance for peace by their one-sided attacks on Israel in previous administrations tell us that if they are given another chance, they can accomplish what they failed to do when they were in power. Even those who believe Obama (or for that matter Reagan, the Bushes, and Clinton) was the greatest president in history, cannot escape the fact that his policies did not result in peace.

It was telling that Foreign Policy gave the story a headline: “Shadow Government.” This is exactly what Arabists have long constituted — an internal pressure group that has bedeviled presidents since the days of Truman, who reviled them as the “striped-pants boys.”

One does not have to like Trump or even agree with his policies toward Israel to recognize that returning to the failed polices of the past would be a catastrophe for Israelis, Palestinians, and American interests in the Middle East. If a Democrat is elected in 2020 or 2024, he or she would be wise to eschew the advice of people with such a poor track record.

Mitchell Bard is Executive Director of AICE and Jewish Virtual Library.

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