Israeli ‘leftist hero’ Barak regrets US didn’t recognize Jerusalem 65 years ago

Ehud Barak speaks with Jeffrey Goldberg, Saban Forum, December 1, 2017

President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his related steps to move the US embassy there drew grave expressions of condemnation and concern from many international parties. Even Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, that strong US ally, said that the move “would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world”; UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it was “a moment of great anxiety”; EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini voiced “serious concern”; and UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May, whose “passionate friendship” with Israel suggests she wants to be Israel’s mother, called the decision “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region.”

But Ehud Barak, Israel’s ‘leftist hero’, claims that the decision is not even a consequential event. “I like the idea very much,” he said, and expressed regret that it didn’t happen “10, 20 or 65 years ago”– during remarks on Friday at the Saban Forum in Washington, in which he gave Trump the green light from the Israeli ‘opposition.’

Aye, Barak thinks it’s just a matter of explaining it to “the Arabs”:

“[E]specially if the Arabs will be let known in advance and [it is] explained to them that it doesn’t close the door on any future American effort.”

One must conclude that if the Arabs don’t get it, it is simply because they are thick and intransigent – and that will prove once again that there is “no one to talk to” (as Barak said after Camp David), which will justify further consigning Palestinians to their Bantustans, in service to Israel’s famous ‘security concerns’.

Barak, who now appears to be working on a political comeback, said three weeks ago that he is “more ready and qualified to lead Israel than all other candidates around – including Netanyahu, who cannot make decisions”.

Barak is a classic ‘liberal-Zionist’. He warned last year that there are signs of ‘budding fascism’ in Israel, whilst bragging about the Israeli left having ‘liberated’ the occupied territories in 1967.

It’s very easy to focus solely on Trump: his breaking with longstanding US policy; his siding so squarely with Israel on an issue that is one of the most central to the so called ‘final status’ negotiations; his contravening of international law and numerous UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem. But what we need to pay attention to is, that while Prime Minister Netanyahu and his rightist ilk celebrate this openly as a “historic day”, the leftists know that Trump hasn’t done anything they wouldn’t have done. And they have. The Israeli left de-facto annexed East-Jerusalem in 1967, immediately enacting ethnic cleansing there. Headed by a right-government, Israel made this de jure in 1980 by its quasi-constitutional ‘Basic Law: Jerusalem’ in 1980, declaring Jerusalem the “complete and united…capital of Israel”. That law was “censured in the strongest terms” by UNSC Resolution 476, which was adopted 14-0, with US abstention, and said, “[T]he enactment of the ‘basic law’ by Israel constitutes a violation of international law.”

And Barak is wondering what the fuss is about. Why wasn’t this already done 65 years ago, that is, just after Israel’s declaration of statehood?

Resolution 181, the famous ‘UN Partition plan’, had called for Jerusalem to be a ‘Corpus Separatum’, a separate entity under international auspices, whilst allocating over 55% of historical Palestine to a ‘Jewish state’. This ‘recognition’ was regarded by Israel as ‘irrevocable’ in its Declaration of Independence. Israel took over part of Jerusalem in 1948, and the UN Resolution 194 of that year reaffirmed “a permanent international regime for the territory of Jerusalem,” as well as affirming the right of return of Palestinian refugees. But UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte was murdered by Yitzhak Shamir’s Stern Gang for insisting that Jerusalem be internationalized. Shamir later became Prime Minister (and in our day, a leading Israeli educator suggests that international critics of Israel deserve to be assassinated). 

Israel has made it clear: ‘we’re here to stay.’ And where is ‘here’? Where are the borders?

“Wherever Sahal [IDF] will come, this is the border”,

said Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to the author Naeim Giladi, when the latter asked him about borders in 1954.

That policy is still the case. This is what Barak is saying. We came. We took over. Why can’t you just live with it? Why does it take you 65 years to get it?

 Indeed, why does it take us so long to realize it: either Israel is challenged strongly, or it’s not challenged at all. And no one should be under the illusion that there is a real opposition in Israel.