President Trump’s decision to have the United States recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was not taken in a vacuum. It was another step in changing the moribund Palestinian-Israel “peace process” into something else. What else is not clear, but the intention and the antecedents are.
The intention is to disabuse the Palestinians of the notion that the U.S. is neutral between them and our democratic, pro-Western, tolerant, free-market ally Israel. Clarity will actually make the U.S. an honest broker in any future negotiations – honest being the operative word. Our support for Palestinian aspirations is conditional on their behavior.
As for antecedents…
Israel’s requirements in any “process” have long been the safeguards guaranteed by UN Resolution 242: “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” Where the boundaries are is negotiable; Israel’s capital in an undivided Jerusalem is not, though the formulation leaves a bit of room for politics.
Current Palestinian requirements are an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza without giving legitimacy to Israel’s sovereignty anywhere. The Palestinian Liberation Organization Covenant, like that of Hamas, claims Palestine in the whole British Mandate territory, including the Kingdom of Jordan. For now, however, the Palestinian Authority slogan is “From the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea,” meaning all of Israel, and that is what they teach their children.
With that knowledge, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House in February 2017, the President laid down two markers for the Palestinians:
- “The Palestinians have to get rid of some of that hate that they’re taught from a very young age. They’re taught tremendous hate. I’ve seen what they’re taught… it starts at a very young age and it starts in the schoolroom.
- “And they have to acknowledge Israel — they’re going to have to do that. There’s no way a deal can be made if they’re not ready to acknowledge a very, very great and important country.”
Mahmoud Abbas, standing with Mr. Trump on 3 May, never mentioned Palestinian recognition of Israel and openly lied about teaching veneration for violence.
“Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace. And we are endeavoring to bring about security, freedom and peace for our children to live like the other children in the world, along with the Israeli children in peace, freedom and security.”
It was not an auspicious start for Abbas. In an attempt to recover, shortly before the President visited the region later in May, the Palestinians dropped their 8-year-old insistence on a “settlement freeze” before negotiations. That did not correspond to the President’s requirements and Mr. Trump avoided Ramallah.
In September, the President declared his support for the Taylor Force Act, introduced in February but picking up steam in the fall session of Congress. In 2016, U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force war murdered and several others wounded by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv. The killer was hailed on official PA media outlets as a “martyr,” an echo of earlier remarks by Abbas on PA TV. “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah. With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.”
Rewards are actual money. The Palestinian Authority pays salaries to terrorists in Israeli jails and to the families of dead terrorists. It is PA law – the more dead Jews, Israelis or friends of Israel, the more money. Taylor Force will end American budgetary support to the PA and its “pay for slay” fund.
In November, the administration made a not-so-veiled threat to close the PLO mission in Washington. It opened in 1994 with conditions attached – primarily that the PA adhere to its commitment not to use international institutions, including the UN and the International Criminal Court, to force Israel to make concessions that were not agreed upon in negotiations. In June, when Israel was debating a bill similar to the Taylor Force Act, Saleh Rafat, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said the Palestinians would take Israel to the ICC “protect its payments.” Rafat called the Knesset bill “unacceptable” and accused Israel of “piracy” and “stealing” the PA’s money.
So finally, in December, came formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
American support for Palestinians aspirations is not withdrawn, but hinges on Palestinian behavior. If the Palestinians can’t meet American requirements, they will have undermined themselves and their people (again). They can’t say it wasn’t clear.