Israel has waited 70 years for its “principal ally,” the United States, to do what President Donald Trump did yesterday and recognize Israel’s capital, MK and deputy minister Michael Oren, a former ambassador to the United States, told a conference call hosted by The Israel Project on Wednesday.
“In a way,” Oren elaborated further, “we’ve waited for this night for 2000 years for us to be independent people in our homeland and to have an outstanding ally who recognizes our capital.”
In addition, Oren argued, that Trump’s “recognition of reality,” also served to correct the “aberration” of not recognizing the capital of a sovereign nation.
The failure to recognize this reality added complications to negotiations. Oren said that more than half of Jerusalem’s population lives in areas captured during the Six Day War in 1967, so every time someone added onto a building it caused friction between Israel and the United States. This would occur to buildings in the center of Jerusalem that no one in Israel considers to be a “settlement.”
In declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, Oren said, “I think the president has acted prudently in not determining that outcome, acted prudently by taking the settlement issue off the front burner of these negotiations.”
In fact, he noted, Trump’s declaration was likely to have a positive effect on potential peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
While the rationale behind not recognizing Jerusalem was said to be to make peace talks possible, the “Palestinians rejected two offers of full statehood, including offers to re-divide the city of Jerusalem that was offered by the Israelis,” Oren said, adding that “Both Yasser Arafat and Abu Mazen rejected offers to that effect and for the last eight years — more than eight years now — the Palestinians have refused to negotiate with us at all, except for six hours back in 2009.”
Oren observed that Trump’s negotiation team comes from the business world, and not the diplomatic corps, and “they do not understand a negotiated process where parties that leave the negotiating table do not pay a price.” As such, Trump’s declaration, which the Palestinians reject, is a price that they’ve paid for leaving the negotiating table “repeatedly.”
By acting on a frequently repeated promise, “President Trump established his credibility as a mediator and strengthened his hand, I believe materially, in the talks to come,” Oren assessed.
He said that, based on his own experiences in diplomacy, that Arabs “respected” leaders who kept their commitments even at times that those commitments are “difficult” for them.
Oren denied that Trump’s declaration in any way prejudices a final agreement “because the president said clearly that the final contours of Jerusalem, the borders, will be discussed between us. He also came out and said that he remained open to a two-state solution should the sides agree on it.”
“And so this is a decision and announcement which has righted a historic wrong,” Oren summed things up at the end of the call, “it has corrected an asymmetry, removed an aberration, and now we can say that there is mutual recognition of the capitals of the United States of America and of Israel, Washington and Jerusalem.”
A complete recording of the call is embedded below.
[Photo: IsraelInUSA / Flickr ]