The ultimate settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict may still be a generation away.
Arab leaders encouraged violent and deadly protest on the Gaza Strip in response to the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The competing images of rioting on the Gaza and celebrations at the new US facility are symptomatic of the 70 year-old dispute between the two factions.
Exacerbating the situation were the presence and participation of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in an extravagant affair at the new embassy. Comments by Kushner implying that a settlement could be close at hand were absurd and an insult to the parties on both sides of the issue.
The transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem is very symbolic for everyone. True, the Israeli government should be able to decide which city is its capital. But the Holy City has strong connections to many people, and this must be recognized.
Over the years Israel has attempted to give reasonable access to Jerusalem to all groups because it’s so important to the faithful of several religions. It has been a delicate and controversial initiative. Most of the time at least one group or another has been dissatisfied. This will not change anytime soon as Israel and the US work together to make peace with Arabs in the region.
What has been disturbing is the nature of the embassy celebration. The transfer to Jerusalem is the fulfillment of a long-term promise by former US presidents that Trump has now implemented. But it would have been better to decrease the fanfare, which has fueled violence and unnecessary death. And to even suggest that the Kushners have, or will be able to, foster a settlement of the conflict is absurd.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is in a very difficult position. He regularly proclaims to the world that Israel is biblically tied to the Holy Land upon which his country is situated. This perspective has not been endorsed by the international community of nations, which has sided with the Palestinians.
It’s true that Palestinian leaders have continually resorted to aggressive and derisive actions over the last seven decades. Their leadership has been anything but effective. Many times peace, or cessation of violence, was at hand and the Palestinians intentionally sabotaged the process.
The facts are that Israel is going to protect its sovereignty and the US will support the Jewish State enthusiastically. Arabs in the region are still generally supportive of Palestinians but are frustrated by bad leadership of the group. Moreover Sunnis, led by Saudi Arabia, believe the existential threat posed by Iran is far more serious than a petty squabble about a few square miles of territory in Israel. And finally, Trump and the US are getting closer to the Sunni nations in response to Iran aggression.
Netanyahu needs to decrease tensions, while not ceding anything that jeopardizes Israeli security. He needs to temper his rhetoric in situations where force is required and during symbolic affairs like the transfer of the embassy.
President Trump should enlist an experienced team of diplomats to help bring the warring parties together.