With Declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital, Trump Angers World, Isolates U.S.

Posted Dec. 13, 2017

MP3 Interview with Philip Weiss, co-editor of the online Middle East news site Mondoweiss.net, conducted by Scott Harris


On Wednesday, Dec. 6, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, setting off protests in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank and in nations across the Middle East and around the world. Trump ordered the U.S. embassy be moved from its current location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the coming years. The unilateral declaration on Jerusalem broke with 70 years of American foreign policy, which held that the final status of the disputed city should be determined by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Jerusalem, the home of revered Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy sites, is viewed by Palestinians as the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Although Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintain that the U.S. Jerusalem declaration is simply recognition of facts on the ground, people around the world expressed their opposition to the move with passionate protests in cities across the globe. While leaders of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas called for a new intifada or uprising, Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization declared that Trump had disqualified the U.S. from any role in future peace negotiations.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Philip Weiss, co-editor of the online Middle East news site Mondoweiss.net. Here, he discusses how President Trump's Jerusalem declaration will impact people on the ground in the Middle East and its effect on the already frozen Middle East peace process.

PHILIP WEISS: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu went to Europe, tried to sell all the European nations on following suit – saying that Israel's capital is Jerusalem, and they all said, "No way!" So far, Trump is pretty alone here. And he does break with the tradition that Bill Clinton and George Bush and Obama observed, which was "We're keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv." In Bush and Clinton's case, they both ran on the promise to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and then wiser heads prevailed.

In Trump's case, he has followed through on a campaign promise that he made to the Israel lobby group AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee). As disruptive as it is, it's not as if doesn't reflect the reality, which is that Israel has devoured Jerusalem. It's been devouring Jerusalem since 1967, when it claimed the eastern half of the city after the 1967. The world has regarded that as an occupation.

The United Nations has repeatedly called it an occupation and Trump's decision is a huge blow to the two-state solution. But he has blown away the hypocrisy of American presidents, American administrations insisting that we're not going to move our embassy there. But on the other hand, we're not going to do anything to stop Israel from devouring east Jerusalem. And the damage to the two-state solution is what Israel and the Clinton administration has done, what the Bush administration has done, what the Obama administration has done. And Trump is in a sense simply acknowledging the failures of the American government to do anything to stop the Israeli settlement project.

BETWEEN THE LINES: As you said, Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insist the U.S. move here in recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli is just a recognition of facts on the ground. But they maintain that this move by Trump will not derail U.S. efforts to initiate a new round of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. How much credibility does that statement have?

PHILIP WEISS: It has no credibility whatsoever for me. And in fact, I think that's one of the things that enrages and is most angering about this announcement. The claim that you can pursue a peace process when you have already ceded central issues in what is to be negotiated to one side. And that is what Trump did. That actually is, of course, what previous administrations have done. But when Netanyahu says that, when he says this in no way forecloses a two-state solution.

All he's trying to do is to keep Israel from being delegitimized in the eyes of the world because Israel wants it both ways. It wants to control all the territory and yet it wants to claim that's working toward a two-state solution. And when one prop of that delusion is removed, ie., you're not working toward a two-state solution, then the world has to move on and say hey this is apartheid. There's a struggle for equal rights going on here. Israel controls all the land.

And the last thing that Netanyahu wants is for such an international South African delegitimization campaign to begin. So he has to say, "No, we've got the two-state solution solution alive. It's alive and well, and in fact, his cohort in the United States, the right-wing Israel lobby is saying, no, no, this two-state solution is still right on the table. And they do this even if they know that they're not going to make any effort to bring that about. Promises that were made in Oslo and in the Oslo process a quarter-century ago have been demolished and the Palestinians have only seen less and less sovereignty over those years.

BETWEEN THE LINES: With Trump's declaration on Jerusalem, what are the repercussions, in your view for the United States and Israel, in terms of political and diplomatic isolation? The violence that we've seen crop up in places like the occupied West Bank and other regional capitals? What's the blowback for Trump and Netanyahu?

PHILIP WEISS: One has to begin by saying that I'm sitting in an armchair in New York and hopefully we would not suffer violence that's going to flow from this. But there will be violence flowing from this. And people will lose their lives. A lot of people will be hurt because of this decision. That being said, I think that the international consequences of this are extremely positive for Palestinians. I don't think Palestinians have ever had as much prestige internationally as they do right now. Because you see even mainstream American voices, journalists who have tended to side with Israel again and again and again, looking at this situation and recognizing that the Palestinians are getting screwed.

European countries are clearly very angry about this. Federica Mogherini, the foreign secretary of the EU, made it clear: "Netanyahu we are not acknowledging this." None of the European states are going to move their embassy to Jerusalem. And there's a great deal of sympathy for Palestinians that will translate into some real moves on the Palestinian people's part. I don't know quite what entity that will be. It's the BDS campaign – the boycott campaign – has been fostered by this move. Whether the Palestine Liberation Organization will take its case now to the International Criminal Court – that might be one of the outcomes of this. The PA (Palestinian Authority) might collapse. We are seeing an edifice of 25 years of lies of the Oslo process in which the Palestinians have been deceived again and again and again. And which the world has been told, "No, they are not a partner to peace, that edifice is collapsing."

And now we see that the Palestinians, they got screwed the other day in Washington and it just lights up all the times that over the 25 years that they have been lied to. And so I think that there will be a lot of people coming to their side. Countries coming to their side. International movements coming to their side. And that would be the good consequence of this decision.

For more information, visit Mondoweiss atmondoweiss.net.

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