Game changer

The opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem justifiably is being called a “game changer” and “historic.” Seventy years after the State of Israel was born and 51 years after the reunification of the capital, the US, the only world superpower, is not only recognizing Jerusalem’s integral importance to Israel, the Jewish state, but acting on that recognition.

This sends out several important messages, not least of which is the importance of not giving in to terror.

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Some people have voiced opposition to the move on the grounds that it might give rise to a wave of Palestinian or Islamist terrorism in Israel or against Jewish or American targets abroad. Had US President Donald Trump accepted this line of thought, it would have only encouraged and rewarded terrorism instead of diplomacy. In what future scenario can negotiations take place with the Palestinians under a constant threat that they will step up terrorism if they don’t get exactly what they want?

The US Embassy move rights an historic wrong and makes clear the terms of any future peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It removes from the agenda the question of Israel’s status regarding Jerusalem, which houses its parliament, Supreme Court, President’s Residence, almost all government ministries and, of course, the Jewish holy sites.

It is encouraging to note that now that the US has led the way, other countries are following suit: Guatemala, Paraguay and Honduras are all expected to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem in the near future.

Although European states are lagging, here, too, a change can be seen. According to news reports over the weekend, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic apparently blocked a European Union move to release a statement unanimously condemning the US Embassy move. The official Palestinian news agency WAFA on Saturday published a warning by the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry that these countries would face “consequences on all levels, especially their relationship with the Arab and Islamic worlds.”

The move is a game-changer not least because Trump’s opening of the embassy in Jerusalem unequivocally tells the Palestinians that Israel is here to stay and that Jerusalem, at least west Jerusalem, is and will remain its capital. As The Jerusalem Post‘s Michael Wilner reported yesterday, senior Trump administration officials said Palestinian resistance to America’s opening of an embassy in Jerusalem is based on a “fantasy” unhelpful to their cause: the fantasy of having veto power over the fate of the storied capital.

Ahead of the embassy opening, US Ambassador David Friedman called on PA leaders to “get on board” with the “reality” of Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital and the presence of the US Embassy there. At the same time, the US State Department is taking care to reassure the Arab world that the embassy move does not amount to a judgment on the final status of the ancient city and its “contested borders.”

Now would be a good time for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to not only thank the US president and American people for their support, but to use the momentum created in a positive manner. Instead of allowing the US to determine future borders and agreements, Netanyahu and his government should present their own plan, setting out guidelines and red lines. This could involve a separation at either a national or municipal level from certain Arab-majority neighborhoods and areas. This, however, cannot take place as long as the Palestinians continue to issue threats and be a partner to violence instead of negotiations.

It is unfortunate that most European Union member states are boycotting the embassy inauguration. Israel and the EU face many similar challenges (just a few days ago, Islamic State took credit for a fatal terrorist attack in Paris) and Israel has already been shown to have many innovative ways to help EU countries in fields from medical technology to combating terrorism.

Instead of staying away from the embassy opening, all those who truly seek peace should see this as the start of a new era in the ancient city – one in which new possibilities for peace can be explored.

Freezing construction in Jewish areas did not halt Palestinian terrorism or improve the economic situation of Jewish, Muslim or Christian residents. Wise construction and development in both Arab and Jewish neighborhoods could benefit the city, country and region.

Far from endangering the peace process, the US Embassy move could further it.