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An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

January 31, 2017

President Trump Should Fulfill His Promise to Move the U.S. Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem

Dear Friend of FLAME:

One of Donald Trump’s most repeated campaign promises was to move the U.S. Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. We at FLAME encourage that action as quickly as possible, as do most Israelis and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

However, to hear some pundits tell it, the move would be a disaster. The most common argument against moving the embassy is that the U.S. would lose credibility as an impartial arbiter in resolving differences between Israel and the Palestinians.

Arab leaders, including Jordan and the Palestinians, of course, oppose the move and threaten catastrophic violence in response. They obviously dispute Israel’s claim that Jerusalem is the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish state.

However, there are many compelling arguments for moving the embassy that outweigh the predictions of naysayers.

First, given the bitter, intractable strife between the Fatah-ruled West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza, we can expect no realistic peace efforts to bear fruit over the coming five years at least. What’s more, if Barack Obama—despite his pronounced inhospitality to Israel—still couldn’t bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table, the Trump administration shouldn’t lose sleep over this issue.

Second, locating the U.S. embassy has been American policy since it was adopted in the Democratic presidential platform of George McGovern in 1972 and codified into law by the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 during the Clinton administration. While every President has delayed the move since then, this caution has paid no dividends—we are further away from peace than ever.

Third, according to a report by the Israeli Defense Forces—which keeps a very close tab on the Palestinian street—there is no strong groundswell of anger around the prospect of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, especially in the western side of the city. So fears of a violent uprising are likely overblown.

What’s more, as this week’s FLAME Hotline featured article points out, the U.S. already plays favorites on the issue of locating its diplomatic headquarters in a city two peoples claim as their capital—because the U.S. mission to the Palestinians is located in Jerusalem! How unfair is that?

To discover some other equally compelling reasons for making the embassy move now, I urge you to read Robert Satloff’s convincing article below. Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues not just that moving the embassy would fulfill justice, he also maintains that it holds many powerful advantages for U.S. interests.

Most importantly, this article will help you to explain to others why it behooves Mr. Trump to make good on his campaign promise—and exactly how he might do that so as to ruffle as few Arab feathers as possible.

Finally, I hope you’ll also quickly review the P.S. immediately below, which describes FLAME’s current hasbarah campaign to expose the Palestinians’ funding of Islamic terrorists using U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Best regards,

Jim Sinkinson
President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)



We at FLAME usually focus, as we should, on the challenges Israel faces in the world—the unfair treatment the Jewish state receives at the hands of the U.N., continuing rocket, gun, car and knife attacks by Arab terrorists, and the existential threat that confronts Israel from Iran. But what we must not forget is the amazing success story that Israel represents for Jews, for the United States and for civilization itself. It’s inspiring! To clarify, celebrate and publicize the good news about Israel, FLAME published a hasbarah message—“Why Israel Matters”—in media reaching 10 million readers. I hope you'll review this powerful position paper and pass it on to all your contacts who will benefit from this message. If you agree that FLAME's bold---but costly---brand of public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support our publication of such outspoken messages. Please consider giving donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To start or renew your membership online, just go to donate now. Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President-elect Trump, and from the American people.

What Trump Would Gain from Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

By Robert Satloff, Washington Post, January 25, 2017

If President Trump is thinking about fulfilling his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, it is reasonable for him to apply the same test to this idea as he outlined in his inaugural address: How does it affect U.S. interests? Or, in the vernacular, what does the United States get out of it? The answer is threefold.

The first U.S. goal of moving the embassy to Jerusalem is to correct a historic injustice nearly seven decades old. When Harry Truman famously recognized Israel just 11 minutes after its independence in May 1948, he extended only de facto recognition; Washington recognized Israel de jure in January 1949. That step affirmed U.S. acceptance of Israeli control over all territory that it controlled, including lands beyond those defined for the Jewish state in the 1947 United Nations partition resolution, with one exception—the 38 square kilometers of Jerusalem held by Israel at the end of its war for independence.

Ever since, Washington has never recognized a single inch of Jerusalem as legitimately part of Israel—not during the 19 years it controlled what was then called “West Jerusalem” and certainly not during the nearly 50 years it controlled the rest of the city, captured from Jordan during the June 1967 war. This fact was most recently—and absurdly—underscored last September when the White House spokesman amended the phrase “Jerusalem, Israel” in the published transcript of the eulogy President Obama delivered at Shimon Peres’s funeral by deleting the word “Israel.”

None of this has stopped five U.S. presidents from visiting Jerusalem and conducting official business there. Still, the United States has never had a diplomatic facility in any part of the city to represent the United States to the government or people of Israel. Moving the embassy would repair that historic error.

But moving the embassy is more than about fixing the past; it is also about restoring balance to U.S. policy vis-à-vis future diplomacy regarding the city. While the absence of any U.S. representation in Jerusalem for Israel is common knowledge, it is less well known that the United States does maintain a diplomatic facility in Jerusalem to represent Washington to another claimant: the Palestinian Authority. As the official website of the U.S. consulate general in Jerusalem states, since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, it “has served as the de facto representative of the United States government to the Palestinian Authority.”

The result is that Washington lacks any formal presence in the capital of its main democratic ally in the Middle East but does maintain a diplomatic presence in that ally’s capital for another political entity that claims territory within that city. It is incorrect, therefore, to say that U.S. policy has maintained steadfast neutrality on the question of Jerusalem so that it can protect is position as an “honest broker.” As odd as it sounds, actual U.S. policy does tilt toward one side—the Palestinians.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was meant to address this problem, but Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama consistently waived its provisions, citing their view that the law intrudes on executive branch authority in foreign affairs. Moving the U.S. Embassy would correct the perception of imbalance and enhance the prospects of Washington helping eventually to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord that, as both sides have agreed, would resolve the permanent status and boundaries of the city of Jerusalem.

The third benefit to U.S. interests of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem addresses a broader policy objective—helping to repair the crisis of confidence among America’s Middle East allies, both Arab and Israeli.

However impressive Obama’s legacy may be on many issues, in the Middle East there is near universal relief among leaders of America’s allies that his term has ended. That is because both Arabs and Israelis believe the Obama administration elevated outreach to America’s adversaries—especially Iran—over fidelity to America’s allies. For Trump, turning a page in the Middle East requires a commitment to restore trust and intimacy between Washington and its regional partners, a strategy he might call “America’s allies first.” Within this context, a decision to fulfill his promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem would send a message that America’s word is truly its bond. Of course, Arab leaders should not be expected to applaud the embassy relocation. But if the move is explained as part of a strategic realignment of U.S. priorities in the region, targeted toward the “West Jerusalem” territory that Israel has held since its founding, and presented as having no impact on the contested status of holy sites, they would likely understand and not actively oppose the initiative.

Are there potential costs to the embassy relocation? Certainly. Presidents of both parties who made and then broke a promise to move the embassy were evidently convinced that it would ignite such outrage in Arab and Muslim-majority countries and trigger such violence among Palestinians themselves that the costs outweighed the benefits. Opponents of the idea have always cited this argument as though it were a self-evident truth.

Of course, this analysis is not self-evident—it takes ominous warnings by certain Middle East leaders at face value, builds on what is essentially a condescending view of Arabs and Muslims that assumes they will react mindlessly to incendiary calls to violence, and does not reflect a potential impact of subtle, creative and at times forceful U.S. diplomacy. Most important, this assessment focuses solely on potential costs of an embassy move and insufficiently—or perhaps not at all—on potential benefits.

In deciding to move the embassy, Trump should make a net assessment that balances advantages and risks. It is a mistake to focus solely on the potential costs, however real and substantial they may be, when the potential benefits are real and substantial, too.


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