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January 31, 2017 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

In a January 25, 2017 article in the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, prominent Saudi journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the daily's former editor and the former director of Al-Arabiya TV, discussed the issue of the U.S. moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He stated that the Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem is a settled matter, and that moving the U.S. embassy there, or any other embassy, would not lend legitimacy to the occupation. Rather, if U.S. President Donald Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem as part of an overall peace agreement, this measure could actually mark the end of the occupation and the conflict.

Al-Rashed also noted that, in the 2000 Camp David talks, Yasser Arafat sadly missed an opportunity to restore East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as part of then-U.S. president Bill Clinton's unprecedented proposal for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He added that today, due to the crises plaguing the Middle East, "the Palestinian cause is no longer central," although extremists exploit the Palestinian tragedy to further their own interests.

It should be noted that one day before Al-Rashed's article was published, Saudi columnist Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh published an article in the official Saudi daily Al-Jazirah titled "The Palestinians Have No [Choice] But Peace." Like Al-Rashed, he argued that the Arab world, currently preoccupied with civil wars and with fighting home-grown terrorism, no longer regards the Palestinian cause as its foremost concern, and called on the Palestinians to forgo armed resistance and embrace the two-state solution – for that is the only solution that is feasible and supported by the international community.[1]

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]

The following are excerpts from 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed's article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:[4]

 


'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (image: alkhaleejonline.net)

"The decision of the U.S. government to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem is not a new measure. Congress issued a binding order to that effect over a decade ago, but successive [American] presidents worked to thwart the move by delaying the process. This, because they cannot undo the decision without going back to Congress for a decision that overturns it – and such an attempt might fail. What is new is the insistence of the new American president, Donald Trump, to implement [this decision] as he promised.

"I will discuss three aspects connected to the talk about moving the embassy: the meaning of [the term] 'occupied Jerusalem,' the historical aspect, and the current situation.

"Already in 1948, the year the state of Israel was established, the U.S. opened a diplomatic representation in Tel Aviv, the first capital of the Jewish state, and so did the other powers. A year before the outbreak of the 1967 war, the U.S. opened the embassy in a large building in Tel Aviv, which serves as its official residence to this day. Later a consulate [general] and [consular services] were opened in Jerusalem, and their location has changed [over the years]. The current location [of the consular services] is near the Green Line separating [East and West] Jerusalem...

"Arabic political terms are [sometimes] used vaguely in [Arab] statements, and this is the case with the term 'occupied Jerusalem.' Usually this [term] refers to 'occupied Eastern Jerusalem,' rather than the city as a whole, namely the part Israel conquered in 1967 from the Hashemite kingdom [of Jordan]. As for West Jerusalem, it was already under Israeli control before that, and it has never been included in any discussion or negotiations. Its [status] as part of Israel is a settled matter. Arab politicians use the vague term 'occupied Jerusalem' to avoid getting entangled in the issue of recognizing Israel.

"Historically, the Palestinians had only one opportunity to regain control of occupied East Jerusalem, but the negotiating team, headed by the late [Palestinian] president Yasser Arafat, missed this opportunity. This was at the Camp David [talks] in 2000... U.S. president Bill Clinton decided to resolve the [Palestinian-Israeli] issue [once and for all] and put all his weight behind the negotiations. He reached a 'reasonable' solution with Arafat and with then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, which no president had proposed before or has proposed since. The Clinton proposal involved returning to the Palestinians over 90 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, with a safe passage between them, [to form] a de-militarized independent Palestinian state. [The proposal also specified that] East Jerusalem, including the [Al-Aqsa] mosque and the Dome of the Rock, would return to the Palestinians, excluding the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, which would be placed under international supervision.[5]

"[But] for some unknown reason, Arafat did not attend the final meeting and [instead] sent a delegation to Washington on his behalf to inform Clinton that they were rejecting the proposal – and the proposal collapsed. During that period, extremist Palestinian groups close to Iran and the Assad regime [in Syria], such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, carried out armed operations against Israel. The extremist camp in Israel used this to undermine a subsequent attempt to negotiate [an agreement] in Taba, and then Barak resigned. Arafat tried to revive the [negotiation] attempts, but it was too late – and to this very day East Jerusalem and the [rest of] the occupied territories are subject to [acts of] usurping land and altering the character of sites in the area and Judaizing them...

"Due to the destruction and displacement that [now] plague the Middle East, [especially] Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the Palestinian cause is no longer central. We will not forget how extremists exploited the Palestinian tragedy to serve opportunistic regimes. Iran reached a nuclear agreement [with the superpowers] on the condition that it stop harming the U.S., and Hizbullah effectively took control of Lebanon in the name of the purported resistance [against Israel]. As for Assad and Qaddafi, they were defeated because of their inciting positions.

"Finally, will moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem kill the hope of establishing a Palestinian state? I think that [even] if the U.S. moves its embassy – and [even] if all the governments of the world do the same – this will not grant legitimacy to the occupation. [But we] hope that Trump takes this controversial move of transferring the embassy as part of a peaceful solution [to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict] that he has promised [to achieve]. Trump said he would assign this task to his son-in-law, which reflects his commitment [to this issue]. Who knows? Perhaps the embassy will be the last of the political campaigns."

 


[2] Washingtoninstitute.org, January 2017.

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

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 25, 2017. It should be noted that English versions of this article were posted on the daily's English edition and also on Al-Arabiya's English website, but they are not identical to the Arab version. See english.aawsat.com, english.alarabiya.net, January 25, 2017.

[5] The Clinton proposal spoke of establishing an independent Palestinian state that would include the Gaza Strip and the vast majority of the West Bank, while settlement blocks would be incorporated into Israel with the goal of maximizing the number of settlers in Israel while minimizing the land annex; in Jerusalem Arab areas would be under Palestinian sovereignty and Jewish ones under Israeli sovereignty; Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to the Palestinian State (unispal.un.org, January 7, 2001).