This Year in Jerusalem, With the US Embassy

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“It would be unwise and unnecessary to move the embassy,” Aaron David Miller, vice president for new initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said on CBS News, December 20, 2016. It’s unclear how relocating the embassy would advance U.S. interests, Miller argued, and he suggested it would only make the situation worse.

“Even though the peace process is, I think, comatose and is unlikely to advance in the near term, why overload the circuits and potentially take a step that could permanently undermine the prospects of a two-state solution? You’re simply going to feed Iranian propaganda, you’re going to feed Sunni-jihadi propaganda and most likely, you’re going to trigger a fair amount of violence and even terror.”

Many of the foreign policy elite have objected to the call by President-elect Trump to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This isn’t surprising, considering their longtime unwillingness to reconsider the conventional wisdom of their position on Israel, the “Palestinian State,” and the Middle East “peace process.”

They are wrong. It is well past the time for the U.S. to do so.

Contrary to some, I believe there are U.S. national interests at play here. Actually, there are three of them:

• The U.S. has an interest in appearing to be a strong and decisive nation. The Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, which passed in 1995 by a huge bipartisan margin, noted that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, should remain a united city, and that the U.S. Embassy should be moved there by May 31, 1999. By constantly waiving this law, the U.S. appears weak and indecisive, especially when we cite Arab violence as a reason for not obeying the law.
• The U.S. has an interest in supporting its allies, partly, so that they, in turn, will support the U.S.
• The U.S. has an interest in promoting real peace and stability in the region, and the evidence does not support the idea that the “peace process” is feasible, or that another Palestinian state would help stabilize the situation.

Appearing weak in the Middle East is never a good idea. As Osama Bin Laden once said, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they will naturally want to side with the strong horse.” Bin Laden thought the United States was weak, and this weakness provoked his attack on 9/11 that killed 3,000 Americans.

Further, the main argument against moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is that the Arabs — both the Palestinians and others — will riot if we do so, is questionable. First, most other Arabs are less enamored with the Palestinians or their problems then they used to be. Second, demonstrations in the Arab world require state authorization, and, as Dennis Ross explains, “[t]oday most of the Arab Sunni states see Israel as a bulwark against both the Iranians and Islamic State and groups claiming loyalty to it. While they may keep their cooperation largely private — given public sensitivities about the Palestinian issue — the scope of what Israel is now doing with a number of Arab states on security is unprecedented.”

Also, much of this argument is comparable to the “hecklers veto” problem of the First Amendment (e.g., free speech). These days, when someone in the West draws a picture of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, that may provoke Arab-Muslim rioting. These days, when the U.S. station’s troops in Saudi Arabia, that may provoke Arab-Muslim rioting. These days, when jihadis are imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, that may provoke Arab-Muslim rioting.

Basically, the underlying logic of this argument is that Arabs and Muslims have such delicate sensibilities that literally anything can set them off, and the best and only thing the U.S. or the West can do is to avoid giving any offense. The problem is that this not a viable way to live, as the perpetually offended party has increasing power and incentive to demand more and more abeyance from those who might offend him.

Supporting our allies is also a good idea. For the past 8 years, the Obama administration has worked to punish America’s allies, and reward its enemies. For example, the Iran deal is very good for the Iranians, and very bad for Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, etc. How has that worked out for us, or the Middle East? Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has done just the opposite, especially in the Middle East. How has that worked out for him?

Certainly, Israel has supported the U.S. To take just one example, in 1991, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq launched Scud missiles against Israel, Prime Minister Shamir chose not to respond militarily, honoring the request of President George H. W. Bush.

Continuing to try to promote the “peace process” is also a poor excuse for opposing a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The truth is that the Palestinians and their leadership simply don’t want peace. If they did want peace, Yasser Arafat wouldn’t have walked away in 2000, and Mahmoud Abbas wouldn’t have walked away in 2008, when Israel offered them generous amounts of land.

The U.S. does have national interests that favor moving the Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. It is well past the time we acknowledge them.

Originally published at Newsmax:

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