The following articles provide background and perspective on President Trump’s announcement regarding Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The issue has its roots in history and in the hearts of billions of adherents of the world’s three most populous religions.
The following article appeared in LobeLog on Monday, and reports Trump’s ties to Sheldon Adelson – or to be more precise, to Sheldon Adelson’s wallet.
Trump’s Biggest Donor Pushed For Jerusalem Embassy Move
by Eli Clifton
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump may announce U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while continuing to keep the U.S. embassy in in Tel Aviv. The move goes toward fulfilling his campaign promise, during a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), to move the embassy to Jerusalem.
It’s still uncertain if Trump will go through with this plan, but the pressure on Trump goes deeper than a promise to voters. His biggest campaign contributor, billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, is showing growing impatience with Trump’s slowness in moving the embassy, which would be a provocation to Palestinians who claim Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. For this reason, past presidents have refused to move the embassy on grounds that it would upset potential talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
Before Trump was even sworn in as president, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, showed a remarkable willingness to follow directions from Israel’s far-right prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The transition team appears to have worked at the request of Netanyahu to defeat a UN resolution criticizing Israel’s ongoing settlement construction. Reporting on Friday advanced the story, revealing that Kushner told former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to call members of the Security Council in an effort to stop the vote, a potential violation of the Logan Act, which criminalizes negotiations by unauthorized persons with foreign governments having a dispute with the U.S.
When the Trump White House hasn’t been quick enough to back Netanyahu or Adelson’s proposals, Adelson, who was reportedly in close contact with Kushner during the campaign, has been quick to express his displeasure.
Adelson, who once accused Palestinians of existing “to destroy Israel,” was reportedly “furious” with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in May for suggesting in a Meet The Press interview that moving the embassy should be contingent on the peace process. Axiosr eported:
[S]ources say the Las Vegas billionaire doesn’t buy the argument that the embassy move should be contingent on the peace process. He has told Trump that Palestinians are impossible negotiating partners and make demands that Israel can never meet.
Adelson and his wife Miriam spent more than $80 million on Republicans in 2016, and he gave $5 million to Trump’s inauguration.
Adelson and his wife Miriam also contributed $35 million to help elect Trump.
The Las Vegas Review Journal, which is owned by Adelson, wrote in October, “The Adelsons reportedly have been disappointed in Trump’s failure to keep a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem on his first day in office.”
And before the funder got on the Trump bandwagon, candidate Trump was outspoken about Adelson’s intentions in putting his money behind candidates. He infamously taunted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who in October 2015 was a frontrunner to secure Adelson’s backing, tweeting:
Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet. I agree!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015
As we’ve documented on LobeLog, Trump dramatically changed his message on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular, saying that he would move the embassy to Jerusalem and wouldn’t call for a freeze on the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank, as he closed in on the nomination and sought to secure Adelson’s support for his general election campaign.
Unconditional support for Israel is Adelson’s “central value,” according to Newt Gingrich in 2012, when Adelson was funding his presidential campaign’s Super PAC.That statement is worth revisiting now as Trump weighs a policy announcement on Jerusalem where his most generous campaign supporter is pushing for a change in U.S. policy that threatens to undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and seriously throw into question the viability of a two-state-solution.
This article traces the history of Jerusalem, the Holy City of not one, but three of the world’s monotheistic religions. The intricacy of its background explains why gifting it to the “Jewish State” is insupportable.
Jerusalem for Dummies: Why the World Doesn’t Recognize It as Israel’s Capital
And why the possibility that Trump might do just that, seven decades after Israel’s establishment, is such a source of apprehension worldwide.
by David B. Green ,Ha’aretz
Jerusalem is holy to three religions. Jerusalem is a powder keg, and the smallest wrong move there could set off a religious war. The Arab-Israeli conflict will never be solved until the Jerusalem question is resolved.
Yes, these are all truisms, and you’ve heard them a thousand times or more. But there’s a reason why the root of the word “truism” is “true.” For Jews, Jerusalem is where their Temple – the home of their one god – stood, in its various incarnations. Each time they were exiled from their cultic and political capital in ancient times, they dreamed of returning, and the term “Zion,” the name of one of the city’s hills, became a metonymy not only for the city itself, but for the Land of Israel in general, and the basis of the name of the modern movement calling for establishment of a Jewish state there.
So, why don’t the nearly 160 countries that have diplomatic relations with the State of Israel recognize Jerusalem as its capital, and why is the possibility that the United States may do just that now, nearly seven decades after Israel’s establishment, a source of such apprehension worldwide?
The answer has to do with that first truism – the importance of Jerusalem to Christianity and Islam, which between them have more than 3 billion followers worldwide. For Christians, Jesus, their messiah, died in Jerusalem and came back to life there; they can trace his genealogy back to King David, who established the united monarchy in Jerusalem and whose descendants, according to the Hebrew Bible, will include the Messiah.
For Muslims, Jerusalem – specifically “the farthest mosque,” identified with Al-Aqsa Mosque – was the destination of the Prophet Mohammed on his Night Journey, from where he ascended to heaven to speak with God.
For each of these religions, there is a spot in the Old City of Jerusalem that is most sacred, and it is the focus of their strongest, deepest passion and commitment: For Jews, it is the Holy of Holies, whose precise location is no longer known, making the entire Temple Mount holy ground; for Christians, it is Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, which, for a majority of followers, is situated in what is today the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; while for Muslims, Al-Aqsa has come to refer to the entire Haram al-Sharif (the Arabic name for Temple Mount).
The early Zionist leaders, many of whom were secular, were ambivalent about Jerusalem. Theodor Herzl himself envisioned the capital of his Jewish state being on Mount Carmel, in the north. In his 1989 book “Jerusalem: City of Mirrors,” Amos Elon describes how Herzl, and also cultural-Zionist theorist Ahad Ha’am and a young David Ben-Gurion, among others, were all discomfited by the city and Jews’ connection to it; Elon also quotes historian of Zionism Anita Shapira, who, characterized the feelings of the Zionist pioneers toward the city as no better than “reactionary.”
When the United Nations, on November 29, 1947, gave its imprimatur to a plan to divide Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish, it famously left Jerusalem (which at the time had a large Jewish majority) out of the equation, intending it and its surroundings (including Bethlehem) to become an internationally administered, separate territory – a corpus separatum. The Jews accepted the plan, and Ben-Gurion noted that the loss of Jerusalem as part of sovereign Israel was the “price we have to pay” for a state in the rest of the land.
When the Arabs rejected the Partition Plan, and launched a war on Israel, the latter no longer considered itself bound by the boundaries set by the UN plan. During its War of Independence, Israel improved its strategic position in most parts of the country, and in Jerusalem, when the cease-fire lines were drawn, Israel occupied the western part of the city and the Jordanians the city’s east, including the Old City, where the Western Wall and Temple Mount are situated. Israel had fought for Jerusalem, and now it was not about to give it up.
Officially, the UN stuck with its internationalization plan after the war, but both Israel and Jordan preferred to leave the city divided. A no-man’s land ran through the center of the city, and a barrier, and passage from one side to the other was severely limited. If the city had been under international control, everyone would have had access to all of its parts, including the holy sites.
Although attempts were made by Jordan and Israel to come to an agreement on Jerusalem, both sides also took unilateral steps that made it unlikely that agreement would be reached. Israel annexed West Jerusalem to its territory on December 5, 1948, and declared the city its capital a week later. Jordan followed by annexing East Jerusalem on December 13, and it also named Jerusalem as a second capital, although it remained a very neglected second capital up until the Six-Day War.
Under the situation prevailing during the 19 years between statehood and the 1967 war, an uncomfortable status quo prevailed in Jerusalem. So long as that situation persisted, and Israel remained in a state of war with the Arab world, no agreement was going to be reached about Jerusalem. And so long as the two sides to the conflict could not decide on the city’s future, the United Nations was neither going to take sides nor attempt to impose a solution on them. Hence, the question of Jerusalem remained open, and officially, the city was not recognized as part of either Israeli or Jordanian territory. This was not to say that foreign diplomats would not come to Jerusalem to meet Israeli officials, but just that recognizing it as Israel’s capital, or setting up an embassy there, was tantamount to prejudicing any future political settlement.
Then came the Six-Day War, when Israel took possession of Jordanian Jerusalem, and expanded the city’s boundaries in the north, east and south to take in a number of Arab neighborhoods that had not historically been part of metropolitan Jerusalem. Over the years, Israel has moved all of its government offices to the city, placing many in the eastern section, it has carried out extensive residential construction along lines intended to make its hold on all of the city difficult to reverse, and it has adopted a number of political policies that almost guarantee that even a left-wing government would not be able to cede any of Jerusalem to a Palestinian state.
In recent decades, everyone’s position has hardened. Clearly, the world community could not give a hand to Israel’s unilateral steps in East Jerusalem, nor its so-called facts on the ground, in the form of tens of thousands of apartments in new, Jewish neighborhoods in the east. And the Palestinians appear not to be ready to compromise on the condition that the capital of any future state be situated in East Jerusalem.
Although Israelis and Palestinians have been negotiating off and on, and more and less seriously, for more than 25 years, talks on Jerusalem have never gotten very far. And so long as the sides cannot decide on a mutually agreeable plan for sharing sovereignty in Jerusalem, or on any other arrangement there, nor has the world community concluded that it must impose a solution on the sides – it would be highly improbable for any individual state to unilaterally give official recognition to Jerusalem as its capital.
Any individual state, that is, not led by Donald J. Trump.
In this video and accompanying article, Ali Abunima takes a look back at historical “deals” offered by previous “honest broker” US presidents, and comments on some of the repurcussions Trump’s announcement may have.
Watch: Trump playing with fire in Jerusalem
On Tuesday I spoke to Aaron Maté of The Real News about President Donald Trump’s expected move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Trump has already told Israeli and Arab leaders that he will announce the move on Wednesday.
Trump is, however, also expected to sign a waiver that will delay relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for at least another six months.
Every president has signed the waiver since a 1995 law was passed requiring the embassy move. This will be the second time Trump will have delayed the relocation since he took office in January.
Trump’s announcement will end decades of US policy that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could come only after the status of the city is settled in negotiations.
Last month, US lawmakers held hearings to promote recognizing Jerusalem and moving the embassy that only heard from members of the Israel lobby, and completely excluded Palestinians.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its “united and eternal” capital.
The western part of the city was conquered and ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian residents by Zionist militias as Israel was established in 1948.
While a number of countries have recognized Israel’s “de facto” control of what came to be known as West Jerusalem, none has recognized any part of the city as Israel’s capital.
The United Nations and world governments consider East Jerusalem, which Israel invaded in 1967, to be part of the occupied West Bank. The UN Security Council has ruled Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem to be “null and void.”
On the ground in East Jerusalem, Palestinians face incremental ethnic cleansing by Israel to make way for Jewish settlers.
Israel implements a host of measures to make the lives of Palestinians in the city impossible, including building restrictions, home demolitions and expulsions, and the revocation of residency rights.
Since the occupation began in 1967, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Israel has treated Palestinians indigenous to the city “as unwanted immigrants and worked systematically to drive them out of the area.”
Trump’s shift has already been strongly denounced by the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and US allies, including France, have warned that the announcement would sabotage the already dim prospects of achieving a two-state solution.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the American move would cross a “red line” and threatened that his country “could go as far as cutting diplomatic ties with Israel over the issue.”
I argued on The Real News that years of unconditional US support for Israel, coupled with international inaction, have set the stage for Trump’s moves on Jerusalem.
I told Maté that Palestinians in Jerusalem have shown a tremendous capacity to resist, such as the weeks of nonviolent civil disobedience last summer that forced Israel to retreat from measures aimed at tightening its grip on the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
However, Trump’s move will embolden the so-called Temple Movement.
With significant Israeli government backing, this extremist Jewish movement aims to destroy Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock and replace them with a Jewish temple – potentially triggering religious conflict on an unimaginable scale.
Watch the video of my interview with Maté above.