The Palestinian response to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been “ugly, needlessly provocative and anti-Semitic,” U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post late last week.
Friedman was a driving force behind the President’s decision three weeks ago to carry out a decades-delayed congressional decision to recognize Jerusalem and move our embassy there from Tel Aviv. He called the Palestinian reaction “largely emotional,” adding that they “unfortunately overreacted, especially since President Trump made it clear America was not taking a position on any final-status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.”
While Palestinians claim that, as a result, the U.S. now has no role in the Middle East peace process, Friedman said there will be no deal without Washington’s involvement.
“There is no path around the United States,” he said. “Israel has made it clear that they will not engage under the sponsorship of any other nation. You cannot clap with one hand. Moreover, only the United States has the regional credibility to bring forward a historic peace agreement.”
Friedman also emphasized that the President’s action on Jerusalem – along with his partial shutdown of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington and the Taylor Force Act – reflects the will of the American people. If the act passes the Senate, it will cut U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continues paying wages to the families of terrorists.
The Ambassador was reacting in part to comments made at a December 13 emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the Jerusalem situation. At that time, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged the international community to roll back its recognition of Israel, saying the Palestinians would no longer work with the U.S. and threatening that Palestinians might no longer be bound by commitments agreed to in earlier peace talks.
Abbas also refused to recognize any historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem despite ongoing archeological discoveries giving evidence to the contrary. Just this week, The Jerusalem Post reported the recent discovery near the Western Wall of a seal bearing the words “governor of the city” written in ancient Hebrew.
On Tuesday, the President took to Twitter indicating the U.S. may cease providing its current hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian aid if they remain unwilling to discuss peace. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley confirmed in a press conference that this move is a very real subject under discussion. “The Palestinians now have to show to the world that they want to come to the table,” she said. “As of now, they’re not coming to the table but they asked for aid. We’re not giving the aid; we’re going to make sure they come to the table, and we want to move forward with the peace process,” she said.
Also this week, Israel’s Knesset passed an amendment stating that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel. The amendment says that any change of this status or any surrender of portions of the city require a two-thirds majority vote of the Knesset – something nearly impossible to achieve.
The Jerusalem controversy began on December 6, when President Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that, after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach is called for. He said his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government is based on reality. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.
The days that followed saw daily riots in the West Bank and on the Israel-Gaza border. Twelve Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces. The terror group Hamas, which is in the process of handing over control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, called for a violent new intifada (armed conflict with Israel) and encouraged Palestinians to confront Israeli troops at the border fence.
In his remarks just days ago to the The Jerusalem Post, Friedman said, “We are a nation of laws – and those laws exist to reflect important government policies. There is absolutely no reason why the Palestinians cannot comply with these laws and, if they do, the peace process will be greatly advanced.”
More nations follow America’s lead
Meanwhile, in a fascinating revelation, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Monday that the Israeli government is in contact with more than 10 countries that have expressed interest in following the United States’ lead and moving their embassies to Jerusalem.
Hotovely’s comments, in an interview on Israeli radio, followed Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales’ decision to move his country’s embassy. Morales made the announcement on Facebook Sunday evening, four days after Guatemala was one of only nine countries in the U.N. to vote against a resolution slamming the U.S. move.
While Hotovely wouldn’t name the other countries considering the move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Guatemala’s decision was “only the beginning, and it is important,” according to The Jerusalem Post. He said, “There will be other countries that will recognize Jerusalem and announce the transfer of their embassies (there).”
Good news for Israel in these early days of 2018
For those who care about, pray for and work earnestly to support the Jewish people, the past few weeks have brought good news. I’m encouraged by our country’s renewed willingness to defend Israel.
As we launch into these early days of opportunity and promise in 2018, I’ll be watching with cautious optimism, an open mind and a prayerful heart. I ask you to join me with the same outlook. The ride may get bumpy, but it will be a fascinating journey – one whose destination has been decided by God since the beginning of time.