Next Year in Jerusalem

Why has President Trump decided to move the  US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem?  His son in law and special envoy to the middle east, Jared Kushner, is a family friend of Netanyahu, and perhaps this is Kushner’s doing. But Kushner is on Robert Mueller’s radar in part because of his not very kosher ties to Israel.

Jerusalem has been divided since 1948 and has been a negotiation point in peace talks ever since. President Truman refused to send a US ambassador to Jerusalem in the new state of Israel so as not to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the city. Israel took control over all of  Jerusalem in 1967, a move that right wing  Zionists refer to as  a ‘retaking’ based upon their supposed Biblical heritage. In 1995, Congress passed a law requiring the US embassy to move to Jerusalem and US presidents since then have signed waivers of the law every six months. Trump has refused to sign the latest waiver, if the embassy does not move, the law provides for sanctions against the State Department that presumably will now take effect. A detailed history can be found here.

While right wing groups in the US have long supported the move, this effort seems to be pushed by Netanyahu and a few right wing Jewish American donors like Sheldon Adelson. Netanyahu is facing corruption charges in Israel. Perhaps Netanyahu wants to point to this ‘victory’ in his own defense. 

Apparently Netanyahu believes that boasting about his ability to control American political decisions is good for Israel, or at least for Netanyahu. Israel has publicized its efforts to delay a UN sanctions vote through Kushner and then president-elect Trump (an effort involving contacting foreign governments that Kushner failed to disclose as required). An anonymous Israeli official told CNN  that Israel had ‘implored the [Obama] White House not to go ahead and told them that if they did, we would have no choice but to reach out to President-elect Trump…We did reach out to the President-elect and are deeply appreciative that he weighed in, which was not a simple thing to do.”

Kushner’s subsequent half hearted efforts to solve the  conflict appear to be going nowhere. The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman is, like Kushner, a donor to Israeli right wing settlement groups  and Friedman has called any Jew willing to make peace with Palestinians  “no better than the [Jewish] Kapos”  who assisted the Nazis. These men charged with negotiating peace in the Middle East for the United States are unlikely to try to restrain Trump’s reward to his crony.

Israel has increased its takeover of former Palestinian lands through settlements, approving 6500 settlements in 2017 in the West Bank alone compared to 2628 in 2016. Israel has annexed the lands occupied by settlers and Netanyahu has vowed to continue this policy. So far this land grab has occurred without much international condemnation.  I wonder if Netanyahu is overplaying his hand. Those middle eastern countries that have overlooked the continuing and growing crises for Palestinians may find it more difficult to do so if the US moves its embassy to Jerusalem, effectively approving Israel’s permanent takeover of land gained in the 67 war and after.