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How Israeli moves in Jerusalem are scotching Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’

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A decision by Donald Trump this Thursday could prove fateful for the immediate future of Jerusalem, the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the region.

He must decide whether to renew a presidential waiver, signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that expires on June 1. The six-month waiver delays implementing a law passed by Congress in 1995 that requires the U.S. to recognize occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

It is a law every president for the past 22 years has balked at. It would pre-empt the Oslo accords and negate Washington’s assumed role as “honest broker”. Carrying out Congress’s wish would deny the Palestinians East Jerusalem, the only credible capital of a future Palestinian state.

But equally significantly, the law would recognise Israel’s efforts to claim sovereignty over the Old City’s holy places, especially the incendiary site of Al Aqsa mosque. That could provoke a conflagration both locally, among Palestinians, and more generally in the Middle East.

Trump’s key advisers are reported to be bitterly divided. Some, such as secretary of state Rex Tillerson, warn that, if the president fails to approve the deferral, his claims to be crafting the “ultimate deal” to bring peace to the region will be doomed from the outset.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, including in the U.S. Congress, are doing their best to pressure Trump in the opposite direction.

On Sunday, Netanyahu staged a provocative stunt, holding his weekly cabinet meeting in a tunnel under Al Aqsa mosque compound to announce measures to bring millions more Jewish visitors to the occupied Old City, including a new cable car to the edge of the mosque.

It was Netanyahu’s decision to open the Western Wall Tunnel in 1996, when he first became prime minister, that brought the Oslo process into almost terminal crisis at an early stage. Three days of clashes killed more than 100 Palestinians and 17 Israeli soldiers.

Next Tuesday, meanwhile, the U.S. Congress and Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem are due to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Israel’s illegal occupation of the city in a ceremony conducted via video link.

The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that either Trump or vice-president Mike Pence are due to participate, in what could be interpreted as the first tacit recognition by the White House of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

That would be a continuation of Trump’s break with official US policy towards Jerusalem during his visit to the region last week. He became the first sitting president to visit the Jewish prayer plaza at the Western Wall, below Al Aqsa. It was unclear whether his advisers had explained that where he stood had been a Palestinian neighbourhood 50 years ago, before it was ethnically cleansed.

Trump stuffed a note into the wall, in what observers hoped was a plea for divine help in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But the Western Wall visit was more probably an effort to placate his core supporters. Christian evangelicals paid for dozens of billboards across Jerusalem reminding Trump that he won the election only because of their votes – and that they expect the U.S. embassy to be moved to Jerusalem.

The day after Trump’s departure, Netanyahu exploited the president’s attendance at the wall to further damage prospects for peacemaking. He made a provocative speech to mark “Jerusalem Day”, Israel’s annual show of strength in East Jerusalem.

He claimed that Trump had disproved the “lies” promoted by the United Nations cultural body, Unesco, when it voted this month to re-state that Jerusalem is occupied.

In truth, it was Netanyahu who indulged in gross mendacity, claiming that East Jerusalem had been “desolate” and “neglected” before its occupation. Israel had “redeemed” the city, he said, while Al Aqsa mosque would “always remain under Israeli sovereignty”.

His supporters tried to give that claim concrete expression by staging the largest-ever march through the Old City on Jerusalem Day. Palestinians were forced into hiding or fled early as police allowed 60,000 Jewish ultra-nationalists to besiege the heart of East Jerusalem.

In a sign of the power balance in Israel, a small group of 50 left-wing Jews – many from the U.S. – linked arms to try to block the march at the Old City’s entrance. Footage showed police brutally arresting them, grabbing them in chokeholds and breaking one woman’s arm.

Jerusalem is the most intractable of the final-status issues set out in the Oslo process. Those expecting miracles of Trump are going to be disappointed. His commitment to pressuring Netanyahu is weak, while the Israeli prime minister’s commitment to making concessions is non-existent.

Whether Trump signs the waiver or not on Thursday, all indications are that the US president – faced with domestic pressures and an intransigent Israeli government – is going nowhere with his “ultimate deal”.

The only real question to be decided on Thursday is whether Trump prefers to take the fast or protracted route to failure.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi on May 29, 2017 under the headline Thursday marks the first test of Donald Trump’s ‘ultimate deal.'”

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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11 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson on May 30, 2017, 5:09 pm

    RE: “Trump Make Israel Great Again poster in Jerusalem, paid for by the Friends of Zion Museum, Jerusalem.” – photo caption

    SEE: “Who’s Behind the Dozens of pro-Trump Billboards Around Jerusalem?” | by Judy Maltz | | May 22, 2017
    An influential Christian Zionist and fierce opponent of the two-state solution spent $100,000 to remind the U.S. president to make good on his promises

    [EXCERPT] When U.S. President Donald Trump arrives in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon, huge billboards proclaiming “Trump is a Friend of Zion” and requesting “Trump Make Israel Great” will greet him.

    It will be hard for the American leader to avoid them. Altogether, 42 billboards featuring intertwined Israeli and American flags have been erected around the city at a total cost of $100,000.

    So who’s behind this big campaign? The billboards bear the name Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem, but in fact, the initiative is really the brainchild of one man – Mike Evans, the founder of this institution and among the first Christian evangelical leaders to declare his support for Trump’s presidential run.

    Evans wants Trump to know that he intends to ensure that the president makes good on his campaign promises. In a statement issued through a local spokeswoman, he said: “Donald Trump won the election because of a historic evangelical voter turnout – the largest in American history. Evangelicals tend not to be monolithic except on two issues – the Supreme Court and Israel. President Trump promised us he would recognize Jerusalem and move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. We wholeheartedly believe that this promise is non-negotiable and will happen while he is president.”

    What do we know about Evans? He is the founder and chairman of the Friends of Zion Museum, which opened two years ago in Jerusalem and pays tribute to Christians who helped Jews throughout history, with a special focus on Christian Zionists. He is also a member of Trump’s executive evangelical advisory board. He declined a request for an interview with Haaretz.

    Evans, who claims among his close friends the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is a fierce opponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . .


    • JLewisDickerson on May 30, 2017, 5:18 pm

      Mike Evans
      Uploaded on Jan 14, 2012
      World renowned evangelist Dr. Michael D. Evans has spoken in palaces and prisons from Cuba to Cambodia and in settings from the Kremlin State Palace to the Kennedy School of Law at Harvard.

      The Last Generation ~ Mike Evans | Published on Oct 22, 2014

    • Mooser on May 31, 2017, 1:36 pm

      Trump will make Israel great! And you know why? Cause Trump’s got covfefe. And when you’ve got covfefe, you can do anything.

      • JLewisDickerson on June 1, 2017, 9:03 pm

        Oh, now I understand. Trump is trying to use his “covfefe” to qualify as a tax-exempt religion.
        Jolly good idea!

  2. JWalters on May 30, 2017, 8:19 pm

    Alternatively, Israel could move its capital officially to Washington, DC.

  3. gingershot on May 30, 2017, 9:37 pm

    The Checkmate of Israel and the Israeli Lobby

    Mueller’s windfall investigation of Jared over Russia lays bare Jared’s simultaneous illegal sedition with Israel during Dec 2016 as Jared and Trump were caught in flagrante delicto subverting the USA over the devastating UN SCR 2334 against Apartheid Israel.

    Obama successfully parried the clear and present danger from Trump, Kushner and the Israelis

    During Dec 2016 it was globally reported that Trump had colluded with Bibi and even General Sisi of Egypt to subvert President Barack Obama and American foreign policy over America’s support of the existential-to-Apartheid Israel UN SCR 2334, declaring all Israeli settlements in Palestine to be ‘flagrantly illegal’ and paving the way for 1P1V1S

    Jared Kushner, family friend of Netanyahu, was obviously front and center in the secret collusion between Trump and Bibi, during Dec 21, Dec 22, and Dec 23 when the (unanimous 14-0, US abstaining) vote took place

    Jared and Trump have obviously committed t*****n with Israel in Dec 2016, let alone Russia.

    Mueller will expose Israel, Kushner, and Trump over this: CHECKMATE

    The bombshell Dec 23rd 2016 passage of this historic resolution detonating over Israel precipitated the infamous ‘involuntary narcissistic rage’ from an increasinly psychologically desperate and unstable Bibi Netanyahu – looking to this observer like he apparently required medication and forced public unequivocal conciliatory statements to the US regarding Israel’s continued appreciation of the US as a partner.

    Will Mueller seize Jared’s computer and/or find he used Israeli encrypted communications with Netanyahu and the Israelis in Dermer’s office in the Israeli Embassy during their infamous completed crime of trying to subvert President Obama and the US?


    The million dollar realization is COLLAPSE of Israeli/Israeli Lobby domination of the American political landscape.

    Jared’s collusion with Israel and Bibi over UN SCR 2334 is STUCK LIKE A TARBABY to Jared’s collusion with Russia

    • RoHa on May 31, 2017, 6:30 am

      “COLLAPSE of Israeli/Israeli Lobby domination of the American political landscape. ”

      Yeah, sure. Any minute now.

      • Mooser on May 31, 2017, 1:37 pm

        “Yeah, sure. Any minute now.”

        Just a matter of a few years. A decade at most.

      • Misterioso on May 31, 2017, 2:57 pm


        Enjoy the Zionists’ obscene, disgusting, inhumane, illegal, blood drenched party. The U.S. will inevitably have no option other than to end it.

      • RoHa on May 31, 2017, 11:29 pm

        “Enjoy the Zionists’ obscene, disgusting, inhumane, illegal, blood drenched party.”

        Sounds like a good night out. Script by John Webster.

        “The U.S. will inevitably have no option other than to end it.”

        After trying everything else, no doubt. But I’m not as optimistic as Mooser.

  4. JosephA on May 30, 2017, 10:26 pm

    I don’t have much hope for President Trump to resolve this conflict, or even improve it slightly.

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