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memri
May 14, 2018 No.
7467

From The MEMRI Archive – Reactions To U.S. Decision To Move Embassy To Jerusalem: From Acceptance And Support To Claims That The Decision Reflects Arab Impotence


Image: Alarabiya.net, May 8, 2018

Over the past few months, MEMRI has reported on Arab and Palestinian responses to U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and to his December 6, 2017announcement that the embassy would be moved in May 2018. His announcements triggered many negative responses from Arab and Palestinian officials, bodies and journalists, from condemnation to calls for violence and a new intifada.[1]

However, some commentators took a different view. On the day of Trump's December 6, 2017 announcement, Palestinian journalist Bakr Awida, who writes a column for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote a column titled "Jerusalem and the Embassy – Do Not Despair," in which he urged Palestinian statesmen to act wisely and to refrain from making harsh and useless statements condemning President Trump's move. He said that they should instead find alternatives and propose solutions, such as inviting the U.S. to also open an embassy in Ramallah as well as a consulate in Gaza, in order to maintain Palestinian-U.S. cooperation. Moving the U.S. flag from the embassy building in Tel Aviv to another building in Jerusalem has no impact on the rights of the Palestinians, he added, because these rights would continue to exist as long as the Palestinians themselves existed.  

Kuwaiti journalist 'Abdallah Al-Hadlaq also expressed support for relocating the embassy, in a January 28, 2017 article in the Al-Watan daily titled "Be Brave [Trump] – Move [The Embassy] to Jerusalem and Trust in God." Quoting extensively from an article by Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which presents arguments in favor of the embassy move,[2] Al-Hadlaq argued the move could involve extensive benefits and not only dangers and drawbacks. He concluded by saying: "Wise and intelligent diplomats, politicians and pundits are telling Trump, who is reluctant to move the embassy to Jerusalem: 'Be brave, move it to Jerusalem and trust in God."[3]

In an April 30, 2017 article titled "Unpopular Statements," Tareq Al-Masarwa, Jordan's former culture minister and a senior columnist for the government daily Al-Rai, wrote that the U.S. can move its embassy to West Jerusalem[4] because the Palestinians and Arabs do not claim that part of the city. He called on the Arabs to face reality in light of the fundamental changes that have occurred in the Arab world in the last few years, and discard illusions of victory and fairytales about resistance.

Conversely, Senior Palestinian journalist 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, editor of the online daily Rai Al-Yawm, wrote that this decision is the result of the feeble Arab responses to the U.S. administration's previous moves. U.S. President Donald Trump, he said, was right in his assessment that the Arab rage over the decision to move the embassy would be short-lived. Slamming the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Arab states for continuing their normalization with Israel and even accelerating it recently, 'Atwan called on the Palestinians to step up their resistance against Israel and to dissolve the PA. He concluded by saying that the current events are an "Arab disgrace," and that the current period is "the worst and most humiliating period [for the Arabs], which makes [even] the loss of Andalusia pale in comparison.

The following are excerpts from Awida's, Al-Masarwa's and 'Atwan's articles.

Palestinian Journalist: Moving The U.S. Embassy To Jerusalem Won't Harm Rights Of Palestinian People Subhead

Palestinian journalist Bakr Awida wrote: "Every intelligent person knows that swimming upstream is a great risk. It can even be idiocy... that can end in drowning. This is [also] true when someone chooses to declare publicly an opinion that is opposed to the prevailing views that comprise most of public opinion...

"I am writing these words Monday evening, after sinking, for hours, in the downpour of the shouting by many in the streets of the Arab and Islamic world, warning America about the likely outcomes if President Donald Trump takes the plunge and announces today his decision to move the Washington [i.e. U.S.] embassy to Jerusalem.

"First of all, it should be said that the warnings about the possible negative ramifications of such a U.S move are necessary. Moreover, the capitals of the Arab and Muslim countries must remind the current American administration that moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem deviates from the custom maintained by U.S. administrations since the establishment of Israel. It can be assumed that this has already been done. Going even further, it can be said that the Arabs' and Muslims' shows of rage and protest following the decision to move the Washington embassy, whether this is announced today or postponed until a later date, will be understood and justified. This is not only due to the shock [at the decision], but also because the decision, particularly if it is actually implemented, will give Israel a writ of U.S. recognition that will legitimize its occupation of East Jerusalem. This is a leap far beyond every UN resolution since 1967.

"Everything noted above is understood, but I am not talking about agreeing with all the shouting heard in recent days.

"I am taking a chance swimming upstream, and I will begin by discussing the despair characterizing most of the Palestinian reactions, that were prepared in advance, at the possibility of an announcement of a decision to move the embassy. By despair, I mean talking about moving the U.S. Embassy building to Jerusalem, or even President Trumps' recognition of Jerusalem as 'the united capital of the State of Israel,' as if this is the final interment of the rights of the Palestinian people. Perhaps it will help at this point to explain the meaning of the terms being endlessly repeated and written.

"For example, what is the meaning of 'the elimination of the Palestinian cause' – [a term] that comes up every time the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian peace appears on the horizon; the [use] of it increased after the Trump plan began to be called the Deal of the Century...

"The recognized meaning of 'eliminating' something is that it no longer exists. This cannot possibly be the end of the Palestinian people, of its history, and of its heritage... that are the foundation for the Palestinians' continued existence on their land, including the Palestinians scattered throughout the world. As long as there is [a single] Palestinian among human beings, Palestinian rights and the Palestinian cause [exist as well]. This is regardless of who makes the UN resolutions and who has the most powerful military force in the world.

"Therefore, what is all this panic, which is mostly Palestinian, about? Is the deep faith in a man's right on the land of his forefathers not enough to reassure those with this right that it will remain strong and will exist as long as they continue to exist? Indeed it does.

"The issue of the embassy of the U.S., or of any other country, in Israel can be summed up [simply by saying that the country is] moving its flag from one building in Tel Aviv to another in Jerusalem. This will not stop the struggle that has gone on for centuries.

"Likewise, the history of 'Ursalim' tells of the tragedy of the recurring wars among the Hebrew tribes, and to this day the Jewish [ultra-Orthodox] Neturei Karta sect refuses to recognize the State of Israel. Will the decision to move the embassy end all this? Hardly.

"The Palestinian statesmen must fortify themselves with greater wisdom and perhaps also greater political acumen. Instead of shouting, which won't change a thing, the challenge must be met calmly. It is better to propose solutions and set out alternatives. For example, Washington can be invited to open an embassy in Ramallah and a consulate in Gaza, in order to emphasize its desire to continue its relationship with the Palestinians.

"Have I taken more of a risk than I should have by swimming upstream? Perhaps, but I, and others who share what appears to be a minority opinion, have on our side the truth: The roots of Palestinian Jerusalem will remain in the hearts [of the Palestinians], no matter how much [those in Jerusalem who oppose this] shout."[5]

Former Jordanian Culture Minister: No Problem With U.S. Moving Embassy To West Jerusalem

Tareq Al-Masarwa, Jordan's former culture minister and a senior columnist for the government daily Al-Rai, wrote: "The Americans can move their embassy to the new [part of] Jerusalem [i.e. the western part] without sparking any serious rage among the Arabs. This is for the simple reason that the Palestinians and Arabs demand the Old City [of Jerusalem] – which they lost in the 1967 war, known as the Six Day War – as the capital of their state. I have not heard anyone demanding the 1948 part of Jerusalem [i.e., West Jerusalem], neither Hamas, the PLO nor anyone else.

"There is talk about U.S. President [Donald] Trump visiting the region [soon], including the hotspots of Israeli-Palestinian tension. Although the man is known for the promises he made before and after the elections, he can play the game of 'Jerusalem the capital [of Israel]' without causing awkwardness for [either] U.S. policy or his allies...

"I do not mean to seem like a spoil-sport. The U.S. president will meet Abu Mazen [Mahmoud 'Abbas on May 3, 2017] and this meeting is meaningful, despite everything that is said about [Trump] constantly changing his mind according to his whim. The Palestinian president will demand a demilitarized state, to exist securely alongside Israel. The [late Palestinian] president Yasser Arafat also agreed at some point to the formula of 'administrative autonomy' in return for [permission to] return to Palestine. The Israeli occupation, [for its part,] has already come to terms with all the characteristics of the Palestinian state, except for the aspect of changing its basic designation [i.e., calling it a state rather than an authority or an autonomy].

"Today many things have changed, and much water has passed under the bridge, as the saying goes. It's time to face the bitter reality. Who thought that the Syria disaster would enter its seventh year, that Iraq would [have to] borrow money to pay the salaries of its civil servants, that an Arab war would rage in Yemen, and that Libya would return to the state it was in before King Idris unified its three provinces?

"[King] 'Abdallah II managed to revive the [Arab League] summit on the Dead Sea and to strike a pact of Arab cooperation in this region. It's time to face reality as it is, without the illusion of victory and the fairytales about resistance, for we are not in the best of situations."[6]

Senior Arab Journalist: The Moving Of The U.S. Embassy To Jerusalem – A Result Of Arab, Palestinian Feebleness; It's Time To Dissolve The PA

Senior Palestinian journalist 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, editor of the online daily Rai Al-Yawm, wrote: "U.S. President Donald Trump was right when he said that the Arab and Islamic anger about his decision to move the American Embassy to occupied Jerusalem would last [only] a few days and would soon wane, and life would go back to normal. And now, several months later, he has delivered yet another slap in the face [and] an even more audacious provocation with his announcement that the relocation [of the U.S. embassy] will be accelerated, so that the embassy will open this coming May, on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the occupation state of Israel.

"The Palestinians responded by convening an urgent session of the [PLO] Central Committee, in which President 'Abbas delivered a brilliant speech and it was decided to stop all types of security coordination and to sue the Israeli war criminals at the International Criminal Court. However, what [the PA] did was the exact opposite, for the Palestinian security forces did not stop their security coordination [with Israel], but actually increased it and played a central role in providing information to their Israeli counterparts that contributed significantly to the assassination of the martyr Ahmed Nassar Jarrar, the commander of the cell that killed the Israeli rabbi in the settlement near Nablus.

"The decision of the Hamas movement and the [Palestinian Islamic] Jihad not to participate in the [Central] Committee meeting was correct and reflected an accurate reading of the PA position. However, [their decision] was not effective, since it was not accompanied by practical, deterring measures, first and foremost stopping the spreading of reciprocal lies [touting] the so-called 'reconciliation,' increasing popular protests against both the PA and Israel, and understanding the encroaching dangers."

The Arabs' Normalization Of Relations With Israel Is A Disgrace

"The Arab response to this slap in the face was [as follows]: The Egyptians signed the gas agreement of the century with the occupation state, to the tune of $15 billion for a ten-year period. [This deal] made Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dance with joy, and not only because of its immense [monetary] value and its significance in terms of normalization [between Israel and Arab countries], but also because the Egyptian regime has assumed the task of marketing the surplus Israeli gas, stolen [from the Palestinians], to [other] Arab countries and to Europe. That is the gravest sin of all.

"As for Jordan, whose ruling Hashemite family might have been expected to assume religious guardianship over occupied Jerusalem and the holy Muslim and Christian sites there – its government reopened the Israeli embassy [in Amman], on the pretext that it had received an Israeli apology for the deaths of three Jordanian citizens and a commitment [from Israel] to bring [those responsible] to justice. However, it later emerged that there had been no apology and the Israeli murderers are still at large.

"Expressions of normalization between Arab countries and Israel are steadily increasing. For example, the Tunisian parliament rejected a bill that would define normalization with the occupation state as a criminal act, and [Israeli] military spokesman Avichay Adraee appeared numerous times on Al-Jazeera to threaten the Arabs and defend Israel's position. Further, Mr. Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, stresses that Iran, and not Israel, is the single most dangerous enemy threatening the stability of the region and the entire world. And there are many other examples of this Arab disgrace."

Palestinians Must Escalate Resistance, Dissolve The PA

"The PA's shameful and embarrassing responses on the first day following [Trump's] decision to move the [U.S.] embassy [to Jerusalem] is the main factor [that led] to the provocative and humiliating steps that ensued, the last of which was a huge prize for the occupation state, [namely the announcement] that the inauguration of the American Embassy [in Jerusalem] will take place in three months' time, on the day marking the Palestinian Nakba.

"What will President 'Abbas do and how will the PA react to this slap in the face, apart from [making] more declarations and [voicing] more condemnations whose words we already know by heart? Will he dissolve the PA? This seems unlikely. Will he announce the disbanding of the Palestinian security services and the cessation of security coordination [with Israel]? He doesn't have the guts. Will he ignite the spark of the second armed intifada? That is an impossible step for a man who has always gambled on negotiations, and has [now] started to play the role of a travel agent, exhorting Arabs and Muslims to normalize [relations with Israel] and visit occupied Jerusalem.

"[It's time for] the Palestinians to regain their prestige and the prestige of their cause, escalate their resistance to the occupation, causing [it] to pay more dearly in money and in lives, and begin their resistance by getting rid of the PA and its ideology of surrender. Only then will Trump and his Israeli allies understand their mistake and regret their provocative and outrageous policy.

"We live in the worst and most humiliating Arab period of all, so bad that the period of the loss of Andalusia pales in comparison. We who have experienced the Golden Age of the resistance and of the rejection of the 1967 defeat never imagined that we would live to see this moment..."[7]

 


[2] Washingtoninstitute.org, January 2017.

[3] Al-Watan (Kuwait), January 28, 2017.

[4] Senior journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed made similar statements in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6764, Prominent Saudi Journalist: West Jerusalem Is Part Of Israel; Moving The U.S. Embassy There As Part Of Overall Peace Agreement Could Herald The End Of The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, January 31, 2017.

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 6, 2017.

[6] Al-Rai (Jordan), April 30, 2017.

[7] Raialyoum.com, February 25, 2018.