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President Trump announced this week that the US will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy to that city. A litany of world leaders reacted with worry. What fears and hopes will Trump’s decision spark?

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This is a segment from The “If I Don’t Recognize You, O Jerusalem” Edition.

One comment on “If I Don’t Recognize You, O Jerusalem

  1. Greg Pollock says:

    The ambiguity over Jerusalem’s international status is, I think, the result of the UN Security Council’s failure to take responsibility for the rump of the Palestine Mandate. Admitting Israel into the UN removed its then territory from the Mandate; East Jerusalem (EJ), occupied by Jordan, was part of the remainder or rump of the Mandate. Israel replaced as occupier in 1967. In 1980 passage of Basic Law: Jerusalem annexed EJ; over decades thereafter, embassies refrained from moving to Israeli thought unified Jerusalem to refuse this annexation. By proclaiming Jerusalem unified, Israel forced countries to walk into a city where the designation “West Jerusalem” had no legal import within Israel; this countries saw as tacit acceptance of the annexation, so refused to do. Basic Law: Jerusalem stipulated an absolute majority of MKs necessary to reverse the law. In 2014, Basic Law: Referendum, written generically, required either an absolute 2/3 majority or absolute majority plebiscite (unclear whether meaning of voters or of potential electorate, the latter being parallel to the absolute 2/3 needed for Knesset action) to remove any territory Israel deemed sovereign to any other entity; surely either condition would be most difficult to meet over the supercharged religious and historical importance of a unified Jerusalem. Since 2014, the issue has been removed as a true coin of negotiation within Israel, reflected in ubiquitous media reference to “unified, eternal Jerusalem,” with private and public actions solidifying the words.

    The Security Council, in my view, is actual steward of the Mandate’s rump, for the UK gave its original Mandate to the UN. True international authority over Jerusalem rests with it, but the SC’s general paralysis via the US veto has left the territory without an authoritative international speaker. This paralysis is both political and material: even if the words were there, material implementation of decisions would be at best quite weak. This left Israeli action on the ground unblocked by any firm international resolve.

    Trump’s decision to (eventually) move the US embassy to West Jerusalem does two things. It signals that the US will veto any attempt by the Security Council to assert primary determination over East Jerusalem, reversing the small step Obama took late. And it signals to the Palestinians, who hear the dithyramb “unified, eternal Jerusalem” endlessly, that EJ will never be capital of an imagined State releasing them from the daily burden of occupation. Now, I question myself whether such an intimate border in a divided Jerusalem is possible with so much evolved hate; but, apart from that hard social physics, EJ has an importance as ideological engine as, ironically, the Temple Mount has for many Jews. Perhaps inadvertently, Trump’s decision is an attempt to surgically severe EJ from Palestinian ideology, rather like trying to take Jesus out of the Trinity. Perhaps inadvertently–but not so in the prevailing climate of the Israeli national right, which will waste no time in declaring EJ forever theirs. And that may well produce a new engine of violence, not at once, but slow, unseen–for now among some the security apparatus of the PA is naught but dupe or quisling.

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