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Breaking the Mold

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30 Oct 2020
Breaking the Mold

As someone who worked hard for passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, it was disappointing over the ensuing years to see one president after another break their promises to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama – Democrats and Republicans alike – had all promised during their election campaigns to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there. Yet each one reneged on their promises once in office.

And then along came Donald J. Trump. Twenty-two years after I first drafted a bill to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem for Senator Jon Kyl, President Trump was finally the one who kept his campaign promise to give this revered city the respect it is due. It proved that Trump was no ordinary politician. And it was a great personal relief and vindication that all the work and effort put in some two decades earlier had not gone to waste. When granting official recognition to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, Trump specifically rested his decision on the overwhelming support that bill had already received in Congress back in 1995.

Looking back on that time, there were many in Congress who actually were opposed to the Embassy move to Jerusalem, but did not want that publicly known. They had always supported the annual congressional resolutions to move the Embassy, which passed with near unanimous bipartisan support every year between 1983 and 1994. But when push came to shove and an actual law was tabled, rather than just a non-binding resolution, it was clear that the issue of ‘Jerusalem’ was merely a political football and fund-raising tool for many politicians in Washington.

That is why, at the last minute, they forced an amendment to the bill giving the president the authority to waive its provisions every six months if he could certify to Congress that it was in America’s “national security interests” to do so. This amendment ensured the bill’s passage and yet gutted it at the same time.

The proponents of the presidential waiver authority cited two rationales which had always been used to deny the Jewish people their rightful place in Jerusalem. The first pretext was “even-handedness” – that in the midst of mediating the Oslo talks the US had to remain neutral and not prejudge a major final status issue in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The second excuse they offered was “implosion” – the fear that the whole Middle East would explode in violence and bloodshed if you touched the sensitive nerve of Jerusalem.

Trump proved the second pretext was totally wrong, as the region in fact did not explode with his Jerusalem decision three years ago. And as for the even-handed argument, it too was just a mask for a deeper, hidden negotiating strategy. For years, the conventional approach among the Washington elite had always been to keep Israel boxed in on Jerusalem and other final status issues in order to limit its options and force concessions in other areas to achieve peace with the Palestinians. The Israelis might get Jerusalem in the end, and deservedly so, but until then they could not have it. This strategy was pursued on both sides of the aisle, despite all the pro-Israel rhetoric heard in the halls of Congress. And it was Donald Trump who broke free of that mold, which in actuality had been hindering peace throughout the region for so long. For it gave the Palestinians a veto power over any progress towards peace, with no pressure to ever change their position.

The Trump approach is ‘peace from the outside in’, bringing more regional Arab states into the circle of peace with Israel and leaving the Palestinians to finally come to terms with Israel’s existence, or stew in their intransigence and have history pass them by.

Trump’s positive moves for peace go well beyond his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his move of the US Embassy there. It extends beyond his acknowledgement of the Golan as sovereign Israeli territory. He has upheld Israel’s legal rights and legitimate presence in Judea/Samaria. He withdrew the United States from the deeply flawed Iranian nuclear agreement that endangered American allies across the region. Trump and his Administration also have defended Israelis from the constant bullying and defamation they face in the United Nations.

And now President Trump is using all diplomatic fronts to benefit Israel and ensure peace and stability for all concerned. After convincing the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan to normalize relations with Israel, he stands poised to welcome another five to ten more nations into the circle of peace – including the Saudis, according to a former top Israeli intelligence officer. Even Serbia and Kosovo were told to do right by Israel and Jerusalem if they want US help to overcome their differences. And this is all without fighting any wars or paying exorbitant sums for other nations to want peace for themselves.

These are historic moves that are changing the international landscape for the better. It took a non-politician to break us out of the old Washington policy-think that Israel had to be kept hemmed in to achieve peace. And the momentum is there for even greater advances in the days ahead. But first, Trump faces the daunting task of winning re-election.

Whatever the outcome of next week’s elections in the US, we can already say without reservation that the Trump presidency has been a great gift to Israel and the entire Middle East. And I will be forever grateful that he was the one who kept his promise to honor Jerusalem.

 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/

 

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