The Corner

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Enjoy the Jerusalem Embassy — But Don’t Get Giddy

A worker during preparations for the dedication ceremony, inside the new U.S. embassy compound in Jerusalem, Israel, May 14, 2018. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Yesterday’s opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem marks a peak emotional moment for anyone wanting a secure and prosperous Israel; in that spirit, Donald Trump has been hailed as “the best thing that has happened to Israel in a long time.”

Maybe. There’s also reason to see the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital not as an end in itself but as one act of a three-part drama that ends badly for the Jewish state. Allow me to sketch this theory:

Trump cut his teeth as a real-estate developer. He reached deals by giving stakeholders — partners, unions, neighbors, building inspectors, banks, etc. — what they wanted so they bought into his project. That’s the art of the deal.

Turning to the Middle East, Trump has two grand priorities: reducing the Iranian threat and accomplishing the “ultimate deal” of bringing an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The two goals are related because the only way to build a powerful alliance against Iran is by including Israel, and that in turn means resolving the Palestinian issue, so that the Saudi and other Arab governments will fully cooperate with Israel. Therefore:

Step One: Give the Saudi leadership what it most wants — lots of attention and armaments.

Step Two: Do the same for Israel, giving it what it longs for — a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Step Three: Do the same for the Palestinians — “Palestine” with a capital also in Jerusalem, demanding in return their giving up the right of return and promising to live in peace with the Jewish state of Israel.

Boom, Trump has his anti-Iran alliance and his Arab-Israeli resolution. Nobel Prize, anyone?

There’s just one big hitch: Palestinian leaders shamelessly say whatever they need to, to get some benefit, only to renege on their promises with alacrity; we’ve seen this many times before, most notably in the 1993 Oslo Accords. This deceit compels the Israelis to crack down with checkpoints, make arrests, and even shoot Palestinians, which then (as we are witnessing lately on the Gaza–Israel border) gets them called genocidal aggressors. So, this story ends very badly for Israel. Was Jerusalem recognition worth Palestine?

Trump has been radio silent until now about Step Three plans because he needs the Jerusalem embassy ecstatically in place. That done, he can move on to the Palestinians, now with Binyamin Netanyahu, AIPAC, and everyone else speechless, mutely unable to complain after so lavishly feting Trump.

As Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said after a trip to Washington earlier this month, “There is no free lunch.” Would that the embassy celebrants remembered this truism and tempered their euphoria, instead preparing themselves for the next, more troublesome round.

As I concluded an article along these lines three months ago, “I’ve been wrong many times about Trump in the past. I hope I am wrong this time too.”

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