Today's talker: Relocating U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is a positive thing for the Middle East
By Joshua S. Block
May 14, 2018
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The Middle East has always been a place of universal truths. The first, and most prominent, is the belief that resolving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the gateway to broader peace in the region. Solve the conflict and, in doing so, address all the other deep-rooted quandaries that affect the Middle East. Fail and instability, war and hatred will flourish.
However, the Middle East of today — shaken up by the Arab Spring revolts and alarmed by the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran — is a profoundly different place than it was a decade ago. The decision by the Trump administration to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is an acknowledgment of these new realities.
The timing of the decision — and the reaction to it, especially from the Arab world — have revealed some remarkable truths about the New Middle East.
First, while most of the Arab world objected to the announcement of the Trump administration, they made a tactical decision not to back up their condemnation by any meaningful actions to support the Palestinians. Why? Because solving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is no longer important enough for them to sacrifice more pressing security concerns.
The Arab Spring revolts have shred into pieces the myth that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the epicenter of war in the region. The stability of the region has nothing to do with checkpoints between Gaza and its neighbors. Making peace between Jerusalem and Ramallah cannot rebuild the broken cities of Syria, nor can it end sectarian strife in Iraq or the civil war in Yemen.
The Arab world’s backing of the Palestinian cause has always been motivated by pragmatism rather than passion. Yet, now it is the exact same pragmatism over Iran’s illicit nuclear and malign non-nuclear activities which brings Israel and its Arab neighbors closer together than ever before.
Against these changes, the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem could inject new life into the stalled peace process, for it drives home to the Palestinians that unilateralism no longer is an attractive option — and genuine peace negotiations the only viable solution.
Joshua S. Block is the president and CEO of The Israel Project, an educational organization focused on Israel and the Middle East and securing Israel's future.