12/06/2017

The region, we’re told, will explode over President Trump’s supposedly rash Jerusalem decision, so brace yourselves for turmoil and violence. (As if the Mideast is a paragon of serenity, peace and stability now.)

And right there, in the eye of the storm, Palestinian leaders declared three days of rage. (Is there any other kind?)

But such declarations are pro forma. In truth, West Bank Palestinians are better off than in past years. They’re largely more critical currently of their own leaders than of Israel or America. The predicted Trump-induced outrage, therefore, is likely to be shallow and short-lived.

As for the rest of the Arab world: Its despots can no longer change the subject from poverty, bad governance and hopelessness in their own lands to anger on the Palestinians’ behalf.

Sure, there’s still much hatred of Israel across the region. But the old guard of Israel-haters is aging out of the picture, and Mideast violence is now largely based on Sunni-Shiite rivalry and other sectarian enmities. The haves will fight the have-nots. The poor will rage against the corrupt.

And the Trump administration has played its hand well, working to dim the light of outrage at the decision. Trump’s Wednesday speech — he “acknowledged the obvious” that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital — included assurances that he remains dedicated to Arab-Israeli peacemaking, a mutually agreed two-state-solution and the status quo of multiethnic worship in the holy city.

Also, he said, his decision doesn’t prejudice “final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem” — a clear declaration that Wednesday’s speech was not intended in any way to downgrade Palestinian claims on East Jerusalem for a future state.

Yet Arab politicians, Muslim leaders, European heads of state, UN diplomats, out-of-office State Department lifers and media stars all sang from the same hymn book: Jerusalem is special, so expect unprecedented turmoil.
But are drastic moves in Jerusalem really so dangerous?

Three years after miraculously defeating invading Arab armies in the 1967 war and winning the Golan Heights, the Sinai and the West Bank — including East Jerusalem — the Knesset declared the city forever united. Applying Israeli law and annexing mostly Arab-populated eastern Jerusalem horrified allies. They predicted dire consequences and moved their embassies from the capital to Tel Aviv in droves.

And yet, East Jerusalem in the 1970s was largely peaceful and prosperous. The most significant violence in the territories, known as the first intifada, erupted a generation later, in 1987.

But now French President Emmanuel Macron and other Euros are horrified. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to cut relations with Israel. But it was a US president’s move, not Israel’s — Jerusalem didn’t change a thing — so the threats are both silly and likely hollow.

In Japan, a financial analyst said Wednesday that Jerusalem jitters led a major drop in the Nikkei. How he read that line without bursting into laughter I’ll never know. Japanese investors are naturally more panicked over Kim Jong-un’s threats than Arab-Israeli peacemaking formulas.

Trump called out the “folly” that “repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.” But professional peace-processors are so married to that folly that any stray move horrifies them.

Sure, the Palestinian protests could well end up leading to sustained violence. Iran, for one, will push its terror proxies in the territories and on Israel’s borders to make mischief.

By that logic, the United States should never again attempt a peace process either, because such initiatives often lead to violence: The deadly second intifada was waged after President Bill Clinton’s failed peacemaking.

Would those who now denounce Trump for risking violence recommend an end to international peace plans for the same reason? Nope. They’ve long warned the unsustainable status quo — which, again, Trump is breaking out of — will surely lead to violence.

Then again, there’s a good chance that Trump’s prediction — that his status quo-busting move will start a process that may lead to peace — will come true. Worth a try, no?

Twitter @bennyavni

 

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