Yesterday witnessed an historic moment: The opening of America's embassy in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. In the lead-up to the dedication ceremony, Hamas-orchestrated riots led to dozens of deaths along the Gaza-Israel border, with protesters paying a heavy price for ignoring explicit IDF warnings against invading sovereign Israeli territory (many with malicious intentions). On policy, many Trump critics have decried the president's decision to formally relocate the US embassy as an impediment to peace that derails the possibility of a sustainable two-state solution. In response to this critique, President Obama's ambassador to Israel from 2011 to 2017 took to Twitter and offered an extended, detailed refutation:
<THREAD>— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) May 14, 2018
1. One hears some strong reactions to the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem: "It's the death of peace!" "It marks Israel's ultimate victory over the Palestinians!" "It justifies Palestinian intransigence!" None of these is true. Let's bust some myths.
3. Our embassy's presence in Jerusalem also reinforces the legitimacy of historic Jewish ties to the city, which are too often denied by Palestinians as part of a broader denial of Israel's right to exist.— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) May 14, 2018
5. Long a taboo in Israeli & US politics, the ice is beginning to break. WH officials reportedly told Israeli DefMin Lieberman last month that Trump's emerging peace plan will call for transferring 4 Arab neighborhoods of E. Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority. That's a start.— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) May 14, 2018
Shapiro's geographical context and points about the embassy relocation underscoring Israel's permanence and legitimacy are smart and useful. He goes on to write that he wishes Trump's dramatic move were integrated into a broader strategy of establishing two states and two capitals, and also reiterates Obama-era criticisms of the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank -- but he ultimately concludes that "the US embassy belongs in Jerusalem," celebrating what he calls an "overdue step." He also warns that future Israeli governments will still face "wrenching choices" in a future peace deal, but firmly admonishes Palestinians over the ongoing failures of their leadership: "Palestinian can hold out and refuse to tell hard truths to their own people about the legitimacy of a Jewish state, Israel's permanence, and the immorality of violence, but their ability to generate pressure on Israel is declining," Shapiro writes. More:
15. Palestinians need new leadership, especially after Abbas disgraced and disqualified himself with vile anti-Semitic canards. His successors must address the Israeli public's legitimate anxieties about Palestinian intentions.— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) May 14, 2018
These are Abbas' recent, fanatically anti-Semitic remarks Shapiro references, which are especially telling coming from a supposed "moderate" (as opposed to the elected terrorists of Hamas, who run Gaza). As we consider yesterday's significant development, it's important to not merely consider it through the short-sighted prism of Trump and domestic American politics. What the president did was to follow through on decades of official US policy by actually implementing something that previous presidents of both parties had promised. Rather than following the established pattern of citing the need to invoke effective waivers to the relevant law, Trump determined that the time had arrived to move forward with the plan. And now, a longstanding and oft-stated US goal has become a reality. (UPDATE - we interviewed Shapiro on Benson & Harf last evening).
Also, as we sift through the hyperbole and alarmism inspired by the embassy move (including a torrent of perversely misplaced blame on the Israelis for the destabilizing, violent agitation of Hamas), it's critical to recall that Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, with 93 Senators voting in the affirmative. The Senate unanimously passed a June 2017 resolution that, among other things, reaffirmed that law. Outrage and partisanship over a US president acting in accordance with formalized, bipartisan US policy says more about the ways of Washington than it does about that president or his actions. Relatedly, it is genuinely disconcerting that zero actively serving Congressional Democrats chose to attend Monday's ceremonies, in solidarity with America's strong ally. Support for Israel cannot be a partisan issue, yet that's the path we appear to be headed down. In case you missed them, I'll leave you with President Trump's dedication video, and Prime Minister Netanyahu's ebullient speech from yesterday's event:
"On December 6th, 2017, at my direction, the United States finally and officially recognized Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel. Today we follow through on this recognition and open our embassy in the historic and sacred land of Jerusalem." #USEmbassyJerusalem pic.twitter.com/lne5FB7sB8— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 14, 2018