Next Year in Jerusalem?
President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a waiver delaying for six months any plan to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While the Jerusalem Embassy Act requiring the relocation was overwhelmingly passed by both houses of Congress in 1995, all three of Trump’s predecessors have availed themselves of a provision in the law allowing the president to delay the move for national security reasons.
“[No] one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance,” the White House said in a statement. “President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”
Legal scholar Eugene Kontrovich argued in reaction to the signing that Trump conflated “successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians” with America’s “national security interests.” The problem, Kontorovich observed, is that a successful peace agreement depends on American security guarantees. If “the White House is unwilling to put the embassy in Israel’s capital because of vague threats of terror, it proves that there is no chance it would actually put its forces in harm’s way if needed to come to Israel’s aid, should the Jewish state be attacked after a peace agreement,” Kontorovich wrote.
While defending the use of the waiver, Daniel Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Barack Obama, appeared to argue in a series of tweets that the time for the embassy move was growing near. “I still maintain that the embassy can be moved to Jerusalem without waiting for the successful end of peace talks. And threats of violence, real or imagined, should not be a deterrent to doing what we determine to be right and in our interests. Using the waiver should give the Trump Admin time to plan a move that reinforces, rather than undermines, chances for two states,” he wrote.
Despite his reservations, Kontorovich noted two important differences between the waiver Trump signed and those adopted by his predecessors. Kontorovich told Bloomberg News that the fact that Trump hinged the move on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations means that he’s putting the Palestinians “on notice.” “If you are saying that I shouldn’t move the embassy because it will hurt the peace process, show there is a peace process, show me that you are serious,” he explained.
More generally, Kontorovich argued that due to the waiver, the conversation over the embassy move had “changed completely.” “It used to be a non-event, it was taken for granted that the president was not going to move the embassy,” he noted. Now, even though Trump failed to keep his campaign promise, he made the embassy move a distinct possibility for the future.
World Tiring of Palestinian Incitement
Denmark on Wednesday became the latest nation to denounce the Palestinian Authority for naming a women’s center after Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who led a 1978 massacre in Israel of 38 civilians, including 13 children.
“We must be sure that Danish assistance contributes in a positive way to the advancement of human rights in the Palestinian territories,” Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said in a statement. “Until we reach conclusions, we won’t be signing on any new grants for Palestinian organizations.”
The Danish action follows harsh criticism from the government of Norway, which called the PA’s move “a glorification of terror attacks” and demanded that the funds it contributed to the center be returned.
“Norway will not allow itself to be associated with institutions that take the names of terrorists in this way. We will not accept the use of Norwegian aid funding for such purposes,” Foreign Minister Børge Brende said.
Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, similarly called the decision to name the center after Mughrabi “offensive” and declared that the UN would “take measures to ensure that such incidents do not take place in the future.”
“The glorification of terrorism, or the perpetrators of heinous terrorist acts, is unacceptable under any circumstances,” Dujarric continued. “The UN has repeatedly called for an end to incitement to violence and hatred as they present one of the obstacles to peace.”
The United Kingdom changed its funding guidelines for the PA last year after press coverage brought attention to the PA’s practice of paying salaries to convicted terrorists and their families.
A recent study conducted by an Israeli think-tank found that the PA paid over $1 billion to terrorists and their families over a four-year period. The sum accounts for seven percent of the PA’s budget and is equivalent to 20 percent of the foreign aid the PA receives annually.
During his appearance with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem last month, Trump said, “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.” Trump reportedly berated Abbas in private for continuing to incite against Israel, an issue the president also raised when meeting with Abbas in Washington D.C. weeks earlier.
If the PA is worried about continuing to attract international outrage over its support of terror, it isn’t showing — the Dalal Mughrabi center opened last week and locals are refusing to change its name.
Palestinian Prisoners End Hunger Strike With No Israeli Concessions
Palestinian prisoners in Israel ended a forty-day hunger strike on Saturday after getting a key concession from the Palestinian Authority. The PA will pay for a second family visit to the prisoners each month, which had initially been cancelled by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The hunger strike gained some international attention, especially after The New York Times published an op-ed by its leader, Marwan Barghouti, and failed to mention that he was convicted of five murders. The paper later issued a correction.
Behind the hunger strike and the generally sympathetic coverage it received — even after Barghouti was caught eating cookies and a candy bar in his cell — is a belief that Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are convicted of serious security offenses, are somehow being held unjustly.
Part of the problem dates back to the Oslo Accords, when Israel agreed to free prisoners as a “goodwill gesture” toward the Palestinians. Today, instead of being treated as a goodwill gesture, it is practically seen an obligation for Israel. But how would the release of Palestinian prisoners, among them convicted killers and would-be killers who have decidedly rejected coexistence with Israel, advance the cause of peace?
Feature: The Whitewashing of Linda Sarsour
Spurred by a sympathetic New York Times profile of anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour, Julie Lenarz observed that statements Sarsour has made throughout her career, many since deleted, paint a picture “of anything but a feminist and defender of free speech.”
In a 2011 comment on social media, Sarsour said Sharia law is “reasonable” and “makes a lot of sense.”
Lenarz countered by pointing to Brunei, which is currently implementing full Sharia law for all its citizens, including non-Muslims, and noted: “Draconian punishments such as amputation of hands for theft and floggings for indecent behavior have already been initiated. Phase three is expected to come into effect in 2018 and includes the most severe punishments. Adultery, abortion, homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy will all be punishable by death, including stoning.”
Lenarz also criticized Sarsour for saying that anyone who is a Zionist cannot also be a feminist. “That seems rich coming from a supporter of the inescapably misogynistic Sharia law,” she wrote. Sarsour’s claim is hypocritical because Zionism is the belief “that Jews, like any other people, deserve a homeland,” and that homeland is “the country with the best record, by far, on women’s rights in the entire region.”
“Zionism is the belief that Jews, like any other people, deserve a homeland,” Lenarz continued. “In other words, acknowledging the state of Israel’s right to exist — the country with the best record, by far, on women’s rights in the entire region.”
“Linda Sarsour is not a feminist,” Lenarz summed up. “She supports a culture that is forcing millions of women into religious slavery. She is a false apostle selling her regressive views to a blinded liberal audience.”
This Week’s Top Posts
Three Big Questions
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, The Washington Post is running a series of articles called “Occupation at 50.” The first article in the series focuses on the travails of a Palestinian worker who must cross a busy checkpoint on his way to work inside Israel. But the article, as Honest Reporting observed, is devoid of context. The word “terrorist” appears twice in the article. Why is there no explicit mention in the article of the devastatingly real threat of terrorism, which is why the checkpoints were erected in the first place?
As Shany Mor explained in The Mendacious Maps of Palestinian “Loss”, all the territorial gains the Palestinians have made since 1993 have been the result of negotiations with Israel. Why is it not relevant to the Post that the continued existence of checkpoints is, at least in part, due to Palestinian leaders who have refused multiple peace offers from Israeli leaders and undermined negotiations other times?
Fatah, the main constituent party of the Palestinian Authority, still celebrates the anniversary of its first terror attack against Israel. The attack took place on January 1, 1965, two and a half years prior to the Six-Day War. Can we expect a series from the Post next January titled “Palestinian Terror at 53?”
[Photo: Boris G / flickr]