Prof. Efraim Inbar: The move introduces a dose of realism into the international discourse on Jerusalem.
BY ISRAEL KASNETT
U.S. President Donald Trump made a campaign promise few thought he would keep. “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” he announced in 2016. Now that promise is about to be fulfilled.
Preparations for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday are underway. The new street signs that direct visitors to the embassy are up, and the embassy already changed its Twitter handle from @usembassyta to @USEmbassyjlm.
As expected, following the example set by the United States, Latin American nations Guatemala and Paraguay have announced that they will move their embassies to Jerusalem in May as well. Honduras is contemplating a move, and Czech Republic President Miloš Zeman expressed interest as well.
Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, told JNS that the fact that more countries are demonstrating signs of interest in moving their embassies to Jerusalem is important since it “introduces a dose of realism into the international discourse on Jerusalem.”
There is a change of paradigm,” he continued. “Most countries refrained in the past from having embassies in Jerusalem. And now, a new paradigm has begun, led by the U.S.”
Inbar also pointed out that the Arabs in Jerusalem were on the fence for many years, not knowing whether or not they would be in Israel. The embassy move contributes to the solution by clarifying that Jerusalem is and will always be Israel’s capital.
Dr. Max Singer, co-founder of the Washington-based Hudson Institute, told JNS that “it would be useful if moving the embassy becomes the first stage of Israel-U.S.-Arab policy of assertive truth-telling. This is one of the main arguments President Trump has made—the simple truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”
While Singer said he was pleased with America’s decision to make a statement in support of Israel by moving its embassy, he expressed disappointment that the United States is not doing what it can to combat other misconceptions and lies surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict. For instance, he said, “the U.S. can keep on asserting in all sorts of public ways that there was a Jewish presence here. Contradicting what the Palestinians are saying would make it harder for them to keep repeating it, and they would have to eventually drop this falsehood. … The Palestinian denial of our history here is one of the main things that make it impossible for the Palestinian people to make peace.”
Another complete falsehood about the conflict that America is not combating, according to Singer, is the widely accepted misconception that Israel occupies Palestinian land.
“The simple truth,” he said, “is that there is no Palestinian land since there never was a Palestinian state. There was certainly never even a Palestinian province when Muslims ruled this area.”
On the other hand, he pointed to the “favorable movement in the international scene.”
Singer noted that “many countries who were strong supporters of the Palestinians are now changing their stance, partly because of the struggle with Iran, but also because they believe the Palestinian position is not adequate and will not get anywhere. Israel is, in many ways, becoming more accepted.”
This, he said, is “partly economic, partly diplomatic momentum, partly [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s diplomacy and his eloquence in international fora.”
‘America is behind Israel’
Naturally, most of Israel’s parliament supports the embassy move, though Arab Knesset members are not. Elazar Stern, a member of the centrist Yesh Atid Party said: “The transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem is not a matter of coalition and opposition. It is a consensus issue, and is a very important thing that should have happened long ago.”
While most of the international community has recoiled at the idea of moving their embassies to Jerusalem, Inbar emphasized that by doing so, “America is diverging from the international position on Jerusalem.”
At the time of the announcement by Trump in December 2017, many Middle East experts and pundits predicted that it could lead to major protests or even an uprising in the Arab world.
However, Inbar pointed out, “even Sunni states didn’t make too much noise about moving the embassy, and nothing came of the threat of violence in the Muslim world.”
As such, the relative lack of outrage in the Arab world over the embassy move may signal a growing acceptance in the region that Israel is no longer the primary enemy, especially given the threat by Iran and other Islamic extremist groups.
In addition, “Israel is seen as much closer to the U.S. now, compared to the time during the Obama administration. Now, there is ‘less daylight.’ This is good for Israel. It signals that America is behind Israel. This, in turn, strengthens Israel’s deterrence.”