There's nothing shocking about saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. For example: Here's the Israeli parliament, the Knesset — in Jerusalem. (Photo/Wikimedia-Adiel lo CC BY-SA 3.0)
There's nothing shocking about saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. For example: Here's the Israeli parliament, the Knesset — in Jerusalem. (Photo/Wikimedia-Adiel lo CC BY-SA 3.0)

Trump’s Jerusalem play puts Israel in the catbird seat

President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and declaration of intent to move the U.S. Embassy there, is a step in the right direction.

Jerusalem has been Israel’s functioning seat of government for many years, and U.S. recognition of it merely acknowledges an existing reality.

The fact that Israel’s enemies are bitterly condemning the move and calling for violent protests against it, even though it changes nothing on the ground, simply shows that they’ll use any excuse to keep the conflict going. Fortunately, neither the United States nor Israel have been intimidated by the threats and have shown no signs of retreating from their position.

Of course, it’s understandable that Israel’s enemies would be opposed to anything that strengthens it or adds to its legitimacy. But most European countries, the United Nations and even some groups in the U.S. (including some Jewish groups that are normally pro-Israel) are also against the recognition — on the grounds that it may harm the peace process.

But this fear is entirely unjustified.

If anything, the move will make peace more likely.

A strong and confident Israel deters aggression and helps the cause of peace, while a weak and hesitant Israel invites aggression and makes peace impossible. Palestinian leaders have long sought to weaken Israel by isolating it internationally and attacking its legitimacy. But Trump’s move is a powerful affirmation, by the world’s strongest nation, of Israel’s legitimacy — one that will make its adversaries think long and hard before launching new attacks.

Perhaps most important to realize is that the current peace process itself is basically a fraud. Even though many people in the West still see it as the “only game in town,” it’s been fatally flawed from the beginning.

If anything, the move will make peace more likely.

The Palestinians have never been sincere about peace. Their primary goal has always been Israel’s destruction. They’ve used the “two-state solution” merely as a clever ploy to wring territorial concessions from Israel by dangling a false hope of peace in front of it. When the concessions stopped, they could then resume open warfare from a stronger position than before.

But even if the parties could agree to a two-state solution, it could never produce peace or security for Israel. A society that defines itself as revering life cannot coexist peacefully with one that defines itself as revering death, and a society that strives to build a peaceful and positive future cannot share a common capital with one that is built on a permanent sense of grievance and cultivates an attitude of perpetual rage within itself.

In fact, Israel should capitalize on Trump’s play and start backing away from the two-state solution altogether.

In his speech, Trump made no mention of Jerusalem as a possible capital of an Arab state, and his only reference to the two-state solution was that he would accept it if both parties mutually agreed to it. In other words, he’s not committed to it.

This gives Israel an opportunity.

For starters, it should do nothing to encourage or advance the two-state idea. It should also make clear that Jerusalem will be the capital of only one state, the Jewish state, and that this is not open to negotiation.

This will likely infuriate Israel’s enemies, whose combined might is indeed formidable. But Israel must stand up to them, just as it stood up to the combined Arab armies when it declared its independence in 1948.

Appeasement will not work. Israel must come to terms with the reality that there may be no peaceful solution to the conflict, and that if Jews want to live in the Promised Land, they’ll have to fight for that right, even against seemingly difficult odds.

To be successful, they’ll need to rely on their historic Jewish heritage and reject any and all attempts to divide the Land. Instead of restricting efforts to settle the land, in the belief that it would ultimately be surrendered to the enemy, they should actively encourage new settlement activity, establishing facts on the ground to make the land secure for future generations of Jews.

History shows that whenever Israel has asserted its legitimate rights with confidence and determination, it has prevailed.

Now is not the time to be governed by weakness and fear. Only when Israel behaves like the rightful owner of the land, and defends the land with the dedication that one would expect from the rightful owner, will the world recognize it as the rightful owner.

Martin Wasserman
Martin Wasserman

Martin Wasserman is host of the technology-oriented cable TV show “Future Talk,” former host of the cable show “Spotlight on the Middle East” and a retired software developer. He lives in Palo Alto.