Following President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week, the American UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Blitzer tried to get a clear statement from Haley concerning the territorial implications of the recent recognition: “Specifically, does the Trump administration now consider the old city of Jerusalem now part of Israel?”
Haley avoided the question by saying, “We don’t want to pick a side on this”, citing the need for the “two sides to come together“ for the sake of “Israeli children and Palestinian children.”
Thus, the “new sheriff in town”, as Haley has called herself, is playing agnostic, objective and even-handed – “we don’t want to pick a side”. Just imagine, if the even-handed sheriff would be so objective that she would also recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine – you know, just to be fair.
But the US does not even recognize Palestine (unlike over 70% of the UN nations), precisely because such a move would preempt negotiations…
The UN Security Council has “censured in the strongest terms” Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem (Resolution 476, 1980) and deemed it “a violation of international law”, calling upon “those States that have established diplomatic missions at Jerusalem to withdraw such missions from the Holy City”.
Of course the US picked a side. It picked the illegal side. But for Haley, this is all just ‘touchy’ and ‘tricky’, nothing to be particularly upset about. In her talk to AIPAC in April, she explained that “the tricky part is where the Palestinians come in on this and where the Israelis come in on this. The Israelis don’t want to give on Jerusalem at all, and we have to see how strong the Palestinians stand on that. That’s your touchy part”.
But in May, Haley appeared less ‘sensitive’. She said, “We’ve always thought the Western Wall was part of Israel”, and also that the Israeli capital “should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem”. She said that, following a debacle, wherein American diplomats stationed at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem refused to hold talks with Israeli officials about arrangements for U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned visit to the Western Wall. The diplomats claimed that the site is in the West Bank, and therefore the Israeli government has no authority over it.
On CNN, Blitzer said he assumed that the US would move its embassy to West Jerusalem, and asked, “Does the US government now differentiate between West and East Jerusalem?”. Haley again avoided the question, by saying, “You know, you’re making an assumption on where it’s gonna go, and we just started that relocation process, so that’s not something we need to talk about”.
While it may be doubtful that the US would actually go as far as placing its embassy on occupied territory in East Jerusalem, the location does not really matter. The mere recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is an implicit recognition of its unilateral and illegal annexation of East Jerusalem. This is what that 1980 UN Security Council Resolution 476 is about. You cannot not accept the whole Israeli ‘package’ of the ‘united capital’, when you recognize it. That’s the Israeli bet on Jerusalem – an ‘all or nothing’ game.
For many decades, everyone refrained from entering the trap, even though US Congress voted to move the embassy there in 1995, and every President since has signed a national security waiver each 6 months averting the move. But now Trump has done what his predecessors have avoided. And he’s proud of it. He’s bragging about it in his tweet from two days ago: “I fulfilled my campaign promise – others didn’t”, he writes. The tweet features Clinton, Bush and Obama all speaking about Jerusalem as ‘the capital of Israel’, with Clinton and Obama saying how it “must remain undivided”, and Bush promising to move the embassy there as soon as he takes office.
So Trump has, sadly, a valid point. U.S. Presidents have regularly applied the ‘capital’ rhetoric on Jerusalem. They were spreading petrol, but didn’t light the match. But Trump, after a slight hesitation last June, has now lit the match.
If there is to be a reckoning here, it is not merely that Trump, and his Sheriff Haley, are suddenly behaving recklessly. They are acting on the basis of a US policy of pandering to Israel that has been going on for many decades, under the mask of ‘peace talks’ and a supposed ‘honest broker’, the US.
But those masks need to be considered fallen, once and for all. We are, no doubt, seeing the true face of the US, and it ain’t pretty.
In the UN emergency meeting on this issue, on Friday, Haley still had the audacity to claim that “the United States has credibility with both sides” – aye, after Saeb Erekat, a former senior Palestinian negotiator said that President Trump has “disqualified the United States of America to play any role in any peace process”, and after Palestinian President Abbas said that “The U.S. can no longer function as a diplomatic sponsor and [peace] mediator.”
How long will this game continue? Will Sheriff Haley really manage to hold the world under control, by admonishing the UN, which she said on Friday “has outrageously been of the world’s foremost centers of hostility towards Israel”? Will she manage to protect Israel by ‘kickin’ em’ with her heels, as she suggested in her April AIPAC speech?