Voices on Jerusalem Part One: The Israeli Media

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Views from the Region

December 13, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump has made good on his campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and has duly ordered the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv. His statement has been greeted with anger by the Palestinians as well as Arab allies of the United States, with many arguing that such actions endanger the peace process and could ignite a new conflict in the region. The president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, declared that the United States could no longer be considered a serious mediator for future peace talks. But in this roundup of Israeli opinion, most voices largely dismiss the fallout for their main ally and the peace process, pointing out that important Arab countries would not wish to aggravate their relationship with the United States. (Note: Part Two will cover the Arab media.)

Israel Today’s staff highlights the terror threat coming from Palestinians attempting to deter Mr. Trump from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: “The Palestinian leadership is warning that if Trump takes either of those steps, they will unleash a wave of terrorist violence that will affect the entire world. ‘Any American declaration of recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – if there is one – would mean total destruction of the peace process,’ senior Palestinian Authority advisor Mahmoud Al-Habbash told reporters on Saturday. ‘The whole world will pay a price for any change or harm to the political reality of Jerusalem.’ It was pointed out that Al-Habbash issued the violent threat with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas standing at his side, meaning it is the official Palestinian Authority (PA) position.”

However, according to a Times of Israel report by Marissa Newman, leading government figures have responded with a shrug to Palestinian threats of escalated violence: “Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on Monday urged U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv. Speaking at the weekly Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting, the defense minister brushed off the threats of violence by Palestinians and the wider Arab world, saying Israel will ‘know how to deal with all the ramifications’ of any U.S. recognition…. Liberman said he ‘completely supports’ Jerusalem recognition, hailing it as the ‘right step’ and a measure that would be ‘very, very important to all Jewish people.’”

In an op-ed for the right-wing Arutz Sheva, Jack Engelhard adds that Israel has little to fear in terms of the response on the part of the Arab countries in its immediate vicinity: “Trump does not worry me. Jerusalem is the right place and Trump’s heart is in the right place…. But Jared Kushner worries me and so does Jason Greenblatt and that entire team of diplomats that remain festooned to a ‘two-state solution.’ The dream is to implant an intolerant backwoods culture onto the most advanced culture imaginable — and pray that it works. So it goes among Liberals, and among those Jewish Liberals still tied to that OLD TIME RELIGION. Well yes it has become religion, or dogma, that a two state solution is the only answer to the Palestinian-Israeli problem…. Yes the Saudis, and other Gulf States, have seen the light, and the light is Israel. They’ve had enough of carrying the bags first for Arafat and now for Abbas.”

Jerusalem Post’s Ben Lynfield offers a similar take on the mood of the Arab countries, pointing to their reliance on the “goodwill” of the United States as a major factor for their inability to strike back against US interests: “If the Palestinians are counting on a strong response from Arab states if the Trump administration recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, they are likely to be disappointed…. [T]he bitter reality for the Palestinians is that key Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even Jordan with its Palestinian majority and role as custodian of Jerusalem holy sites – are simply too dependent on U.S. goodwill to get into a real row with the Trump administration. This is a case where each of their national interests trumps Arab solidarity…. Unless domestic reaction becomes unexpectedly explosive, Riyadh, Cairo and Amman can be expected to confine their responses to verbal missives that will soon subside.”

However, in an op-ed for Yedioth Ahronoth, Shimon Shiffer warns against a too optimistic reading of the mood across the region, cautioning that “Trump’s … declaration on Jerusalem could turn into a match that would ignite a major fire in the violent region we are living in…. Those who seek international recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem must initiate far-reaching moves for an agreement. Any change in the existing status quo could only take place as a result of negotiations that would force all parties to make painful concessions. There appears to be no willingness for such concessions, however, both on the Israeli side and on the Palestinian side, which has insisted on missing opportunities for an agreement all these years.”


  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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