By Josh Brown, Zionist Federation Representative, Wellington, NZ
Trump’s recent announcement to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, heralding their intention to move the embassy there from Tel Aviv, reminds the Palestinians that it’s in their best interests to come to the negotiating table as soon as possible and that the entire land of Israel is not up for contention despite assurances from their leadership.
The oft quoted politically correct mantra that the current impasse blocking a final status agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis, lies squarely at the feet of the Israeli government. In truth, due to the complexity of the issue, all sides and foreign backers with their own self-serving agendas must share the blame for the endless state-of-affairs, the deterioration of hope and the suffocating status quo.
The framing of the conflict biased in favour towards the “oppressed underdog” by most of the world’s media, promotes the concept that the Palestinian people as an extension of the Arab nation and Muslim brothers-in-arms, are being victimised by the colonialist Israelis as an extension of the imperialist Western powers. The decade old transmission that Israel is enemy no.1, often accompanied by abhorrently graphic evidence, relayed via the internet and T.V globally to the exploited and downtrodden inhabitants of second and third world nations garner a special kind of sympathy and evoke fraternal anger. This is especially among Arab and Muslim populations who individuals so acutely feel sting of inequality brought about Western political meddling and capitalism and become choleric in reaction to the perceived threat to Islam and its religious shrines.
The televised message swells and enjoins globalist opinion that Israelis have no real connection to the land or to Jerusalem, that Jews do not have any right to self-determination or to settle in their historic homeland, that Zionists and their settlements are solely responsible for the ongoing conflict with their eviction of Palestinians from their land, Judaization is desecrating divinely bequeathed sites and most offensively, that a colonialist form of apartheid exists accompanying severe Israeli intimidation. The Israeli side of the story is almost never aired or considered leading to the Arab street’s mistaken conclusion that there is only one side to the story and that the Israelis (and often Jews by extension) are so completely wrong, wicked and criminal.
To appease popular anger, we can perceive the manifestation of unjust international wrath at the UN and UNESCO playhouses. At almost every meeting and assembly, members of the non-aligned movement clamour over themselves to point the finger at Israel to divert attention away from their own profound human rights abuses and war crimes. Israel as the sole Jewish country, has become the natural scapegoat and an easy target for an automatic 50 country Muslim-majority voting bloc that continuously highlights Israel’s crimes to punish it at every opportunity while collectively dampening debate over shocking human rights abuses in countries like Syria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Iran and Yemen.
The number of UN resolutions against Israel tallied against the total number of resolutions criticizing all other nations is staggering and outrageous. I need only quote the former United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who said before he departed that the organisation has advanced a “disproportionate” volume of resolutions against Israel, which “foiled the ability of the UN to fulfil its role effectively”.
It is undeniably true that the one-sided groundswell of emotion building against Israel in both Muslim majority nations and Western countries who have absorbed a demographically altering influx of Muslim immigrants such as France and the UK, is starting to put considerable amount of political pressure on Israel.
Besides UN resolutions, the BDS movement, violent global demonstrations, threats of sanctions and criminal litigation are examples of global intimidating tactics that are supposed responses to Israel’s peace process intransigence. As the pressure builds, Israelis feel increasingly certain that they are being bullied into a corner, while their apparent infantilised peace partner, with the backing of 300 million co-Arab nationalists, remains free from any pressure to approach the negotiating table, and in fact, allowed to incite and hate as they wish.
Survey after survey illustrates the stubborn Palestinian animosity for the Jewish state, that the Palestinians are simply not ready for peace because even if Israel would give them everything they ever wanted in a peace agreement, they would still not recognise a Jewish state in their midst. Their leaders regularly talk about peace in English while assuring their constituents in Arabic that an agreement is merely a stepping stone to liberating their ancestral homeland in its entirety, imperilling the region’s Jews to another holocaust – an obviously unacceptable prospect feared by Israelis.
The settlements are usually quoted as being the main obstacle in advancing the peace process, but this is patently untrue as Israeli government has always maintained its flexibility in withdrawing from land as necessary in any final status agreement, as it painfully did in Gaza. The real obstacle to peace is that there is no real incentive for the Palestinians to speak with the Israelis in the context of a rising global campaign to completely delegitimise Israel’s right to exist (i.e. BDS); and why settle for the West Bank and Gaza when there is no pressure to do so and your financial backers (i.e. Iran, Qatar, Wahhabis etc.) egg you on to wage jihad until the land ‘from the river to the sea will be free’?
Donald Trump’s bold decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state is the push back. There is indeed, a price to pay for Palestine’s political intransigence and it acts as a reminder to Israel’s adversaries that the status quo is not tenable.
Hypocritically, the Palestinians publicly say the same thing, that the status quo is suffocating, however it appears now that they wish for it to be maintained but only when it suits them. For years, the Israelis have faced unyielding pressure to make peace with an imaginary peace partner but for the first time in a long while, the Palestinian now wake up to the realisation that a peace agreement on their terms is not around the corner and that Israel cannot be arm-twisted into an existentially compromising agreement.
For 3000 years, Jews have considered Jerusalem to be nerve centre of their religion. Setting aside its ascribed importance, the same cannot be said for the adherents of the 1400-year-old Islamic faith who face towards Mecca when they pray.
But beyond the religious aspect, Jerusalem holds special traditional, cultural and historical significance for Jews worldwide. The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, along with most government institutions and ministries are all located there and therefore, West Jerusalem, as Israel’s administrative capital is not an area that will realistically ever been surrendered.
Contrary to popular belief, the USA is not the only country to recognise reality. Surprisingly, Russia recognised West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this year and the Czech Republic last Wednesday broke ranks with the European Union, and issued a similar endorsement. Certainly, in any final status agreement West Jerusalem will remain with Israel, while on the other hand, recognising Jerusalem as its capital does not preclude a recognition of East Jerusalem as being the capital of a Palestinian State at some future date.
So, what’s the fuss about? Recognising West Jerusalem status allays Israeli fears that the entire city is up for grabs and reminds the Palestinians that they can’t have it all, but also, it reminds them that it’s in their best interests reach a peace agreement as soon as possible to lift them out of their collective suffering. Time, is in fact, not on their side.
In the words of US ambassador to the UN, ‘change is hard’ and the notion that Palestinians need to acknowledge the reality of Israel is for them, enragingly hard. The Palestinian leadership and national consciousness needs to be instilled with acceptance that the Israelis are there to stay and vice versa.
New Zealand has a role to play in reminding both sides that there is no plan B for a two-state solution by following the USA’s lead in recognising West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while demonstrating its readiness in recognising East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital should that momentous occasion arrive.