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Recognition of Israel's capital teaches Palestinians 'there is a price to pay for perpetuating conflict,' writes Bush's former undersecretary of defense

NEW YORK (JTA) — When President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, many foreign affairs experts called it a blunder.

This initiative was likely to give rise to an outbreak of violence in the city, they then estimated. It would alienate Palestinians who revere Jerusalem and freeze any hope of a peace process. It would be a final blow to a two-state solution, increasingly out of reach.

“Raise this issue the way he did does not advance the cause of peace, it does not advance the cause of stability in the region, it does not make Israel safer, and it does not make the A safer United States,” James Cunningham, a former ambassador to Israel who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told the Atlantic Council.

"It creates significant risk with very little benefit as far as I can tell."

But dissenting voices are heard among specialists who are rather to the right of the political spectrum but join the center.

Douglas Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. (Credit: public domain)

Trump's recognition of Jerusalem is a strategic correction that moves in the right direction of US foreign policy. It does not harm the prospects for peace, they say, and there is a good chance that it will, on the contrary, support them.

“American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem can contribute to peace,” says Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense to President George W. Bush, in Foreign Policy.

It teaches Palestinians, he writes, "that there is a price to pay for perpetuating the conflict: Life goes on, Israelis create new realities, and the world in general adapts to these new realities."

Trump's statement showed that the United States would not be intimidated by extremism, wrote Amos Yadlin, head of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies and an affiliate of the Zionist Union party of center left, on Twitter. Resisting threats of violence changes the contours of peace negotiations, he added.

"Trump was not intimidated by threats from Ramallah, Amman or Ankara," Yadlin wrote in a Twitter post, referring to the Palestinian, Jordanian and Turkish capitals. "The refusal to give in to threats and blackmail, coupled with the message that the Palestinians do not have the power to veto, is a very important precedent for the future of the peace process."

Jewish groups, for their part, widely welcomed the move, saying it was a long-overdue recognition of Jewish historical and religious claims to the city, as well as recognition of Jerusalem's status within the contemporary Jewish state as the seat of government. But many of them also reiterated their support for a two-state solution and urged Trump to affirm his support for this option.

"This is a significant initiative that recognizes the reality: Jerusalem is the political capital of the country and it has been the spiritual heart of the Jewish people for millennia," said a statement from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who has never refrained from criticizing Trump in the past. The statement added that the group now recommends "the rapid advancement of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading to a two-state solution."

A portrait of US President Donald Trump is burned during a protest in the capital of Tehran to denounce his recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, on December 11, 2017. (ATTA KENARE/AFP)

A week after Trump's announcement, the prospects for peace seem to have darkened.

Demonstrations took place in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories, although they were much smaller than expected.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called on his people to now demand equal rights in Israel rather than a separate state, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the United States no longer had a role to play. hold in the peace negotiations.

But that doesn't bother analysts who feel the US should present itself as a resolute partner to Israel rather than a fair mediator. Such positioning, some wrote, puts the onus on the Palestinians to tailor their demands and show their willingness to sign up to a deal.

“The intention is to disabuse the Palestinians of this notion that the United States is neutral between them and our ally Israel, a democratic, tolerant, free-trade and pro-Western state,” noted Shoshanna Bryan, director of the Political Center Jew, a conservative group, in the Daily Caller.

"American support for the aspirations of the Palestinians has not been withdrawn but rests on the behavior they will adopt."

Palestinian Muslim worshipers chant slogans during Friday prayers in front of the Dome of the Rock near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on December 8, 2017. (AFP/Ahmad GHARABLI)

But some analysts also warn that meeting an old demand from Israel could create a debt for the Jewish state to Trump if he were to ask for concessions.

“Because Trump is considered very pro-Israel by the Israeli public, it will be more difficult for Netanyahu to say no to the president's demands for compromise,” wrote Jonathan Rynhold, director of the Argov Center for Israel Studies and of the Jewish people at Bar-Ilan University.

“It was very easy for Bibi to say no to Obama, as there was no price to pay at the national level, but it will not be the case with Trump”.

Source: Trump's move on Jerusalem will help peace process - experts

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