Home Update Moving the US Embassy in Israel/ End of Israel’s Population Bomb?

Moving the US Embassy in Israel/ End of Israel’s Population Bomb?

Update from AIJAC

November 24, 2016

Update 11/16 #04

This Update deals with the possibility US President-elect Donald Trump may fulfill a campaign pledge and move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Israel’s actual capital since 1950, Jerusalem, as a a US law passed in 1995 requires.

First up is a history of the US Embassy controversy, and a round-up of expert opinion on it, from Raphael Ahren of the Times of Israel. Ahren notes that if Trump decides to fulfill his pledge – a pledge a series of predecessors also made but backed away from – he doesn’t have to do anything, he merely has to cease signing a series of waivers every six months that his predecessors have signed that suspend the 1995 Congressional decision. Ahren also quotes Israeli and American experts discussing the implications of an Embassy move if Trump does in fact go ahead with one, including the prospect of Palestinian violence in response. For this important backgrounder on this perennial topic, CLICK HERE. International law expert Julian Ku has more on the legalities of a US  Embassy move here.

Next up is Israeli academic  – and recent visitor to Australia – Max Singer, who argues that moving the Embassy could actually be part of a new strategy for pushing Israeli-Palestinian peace. In particular, he argues that by denying the obvious truth that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and has been since 1950, the US, rather than appearing an “honest broker” is instead feeding Palestinian hopes that international pressure can force Israeli concessions or lead to its destruction. He says truth-telling to the Palestinians – including about Jewish ties to the land and the reality that Jerusalem is going to remain Israel’s capital (without ruling out a Palestinian capital there as well) – is likely to be more productive for moves toward peace than playing along with a Palestinian narrative which denies any legitimacy to Israel’s existence anywhere, including in the pre-1967 borders. For his argument in full, CLICK HERE

Finally, we offer a short but important comment from Elliott Abrams about the long-discussed “demographic threat” or “population bomb” that Israel allegedly faces. Abrams notes that it has long been argued that Israel needs to reach a two-state solution quickly because otherwise, due to higher birth rates, the non-Jewish percentage of the population in Israel and the West Bank will rise and either make Jews a minority in their own country, or make Israel a non-democratic apartheid state. The problem with that statement, he notes, is that the premise about birth rates is no longer true, with the latest numbers showing Jewish and Arab birth rates have equalised, so we need to reconsider those arguments. For more details, CLICK HERE

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Article 1

What would Trump have to do to bring the US embassy to Jerusalem? Nothing at all

All it takes to implement the 1995 US law stipulating the relocation is for the president not to sign a waiver. Will the unpredictable president-elect not do what his predecessors have done three dozen times before?
 

Times of Israel, November 17, 2016, 6:19 am

In about three weeks, Barack Obama will do something he has done 15 times before during his two terms as president of the United States, something some Israelis hope his successor, Donald J. Trump, will not do even once: He will sign a presidential waiver halting his legal obligation to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Citing the “authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” Obama will determine once more “that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States,” to suspend Congress’s 1995 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and transfer to it the embassy and the ambassador’s residence.

Obama is not the first president to sign this waiver. Bill Clinton and the born-again Christian George W. Bush did it twice a year, thus continually betraying their own campaign pledges.

But Trump is a wildcard, and more than a week after he won the elections it still unclear what policies he will pursue in the Middle East — including whether he will adhere to widely accepted diplomatic dogma and join the list of presidents postponing the embassy’s move every six months, or actually make good on his campaign pledge and order the move.

“When it comes to foreign policy he appears to have certain instincts, but it’s entirely unclear where exactly he stands on any specific policy issue,” said Jonathan Rynhold, an expert on American politics at Bar-Ilan University. “It’s really impossible to know. He said so many things, and nearly everything he said he contradicted at some other point.”

The US Embassy building in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)

The US Embassy building in Tel Aviv.

The most often cited argument against recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the embassy there is that this is a step that should be taken only after the successful conclusion of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. The status of Jerusalem is subject to bilateral negotiations, diplomats generally argue, and relocating the embassy as a gesture to Israel before a final-status agreement is signed would greatly anger Ramallah — sending an already moribund peace process to its certain death — and raise the ire of the larger Arab world and thus destabilize the entire region.

“It could also severely damage Washington’s standing as an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Rynhold said.

“I have always wanted to move our embassy to west Jerusalem,” president Bill Clinton said in a 2000 interview, months before the end of his second term. “I have not done so because I didn’t want to do anything to undermine our ability to help to broker a secure and fair and lasting peace for Israelis and for Palestinians.”

But Trump, who campaigned with the promise to do things differently, could throw these traditional axioms out of the window.

Although he portrays himself as a strong supporter of Israel, at one point during the campaign (in February) he suggested that he would let Israelis and Palestinians try to reach peace by themselves, without taking too much of a position on the conflict, Rynhold recalled. “How does moving the embassy fit onto this? I don’t think he knows.”

To be sure, the Manhattan real estate mogul-turned-politician declared unequivocally, in an address to AIPAC in March, that he intends to “move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.” In a television interview that month he said he would do it “fairly quickly.”

However, shortly after Trump’s November 8 victory, Walid Phares, one of his foreign policy advisers, appeared to walk back the pledge to relocate the embassy. “Many presidents of the United States have committed to do that, and he said as well that he will do that, but he will do it under consensus,” Phares said, causing some confusion. He later clarified that he meant “consensus at home,” yet what he means by that is still somewhat murky, since there is broad bipartisan support in Congress for moving the embassy.

Since Trump’s positions on foreign policy are hazy at best, much will depend on who his top advisers are, according to Ilan Goldenberg, the director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“If Donald Trump appoints people like [former US national security advisor] Stephen Hadley or [Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman] Bob Corker, we will see much more continuity. These are folks that have been doing it for years and are a part of the Washington consensus. They understand there’s a reason why the US hasn’t moved the embassy, and therefore I don’t think you’d see a shift,” Goldenberg said.

“However, if he’ll appoint more out-of-the-box characters — then everything is possible.”

Israel declared the western part of Jerusalem its capital in 1950. In 1980, 13 years after Israel captured the eastern part city in the Six Day War, the Knesset passed a law declaring “united Jerusalem” its capital. But since the international community refuses to recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, the nations of the world moved their embassies to Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan or Herzliya.

Ahead of the 1992 US presidential election, Bill Clinton pledged to transfer the embassy. When he failed to deliver on his promise, both houses of Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 with overwhelming majorities. Since then, it has been waived by three consecutive presidents 35 times.

‘Seven nays and one aye, the ayes have it.’

If Trump did decide to break with tradition, there is little that would stand in his way. For him to deliver on his election promise he could simply decide not to sign the presidential waiver.

The American Constitution gives the president the prerogative to recognize foreign countries and borders, even against the better council of his cabinet and other advisers. Discussing the Emancipation Declaration, Abraham Lincoln was outvoted unanimously by his cabinet. He ended the debate by saying: “Seven nays and one aye, the ayes have it.”

There are even better examples from modern times that illustrate that the president has the last word when it comes to diplomacy. In May 1948, president Henry Truman recognized the State of Israel minutes after David Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv, defying vehement opposition from the State Department.

Jerusalem’s status as capital is an Israeli consensus, and the wish to have the embassy there arguably is as well, at least in theory. However, some scholars argue that a move to the Holy City could potentially be counterproductive to Israel’s claim to a united Jerusalem.

Transferring the US embassy to West Jerusalem could be interpreted as the US administration only recognizing Israeli sovereignty in that part of the city, Shlomo Slonim, a professor emeritus at Hebrew University and the author of the 1998 book “Jerusalem in America’s Foreign Policy,” told The Times of Israel. “It could imply that East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, has a different status.”

What would happen if Trump goes ahead and moves the embassy? Will the region have to brace for more turmoil, perhaps even violence? Not necessarily, several experts said.

“It will not change anything fundamentally on the ground, Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser, said this week on a conference call with reporters. “But it would be very important symbolically.”

Goldenberg, from the Center for a New American Security, predicted a mostly negligible fallout were the embassy moved to Jerusalem. “It would be a huge problem for the Palestinians, but the rest of the Arab world doesn’t really care about this; they have other worries right now,” he said. Islamic countries would likely protest a move of the embassy to Jerusalem, but not take action that could trigger bloodshed, he added. “On the list of the things that Trump could do that I am very worried about, this is probably not very high.”

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Article 2

Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem: A Great Opportunity for the New President

 

By Dr. Max Singer

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 378
November 21, 2016

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a good example of the kind of policy change that President-Elect Donald Trump has said is needed in Washington. More importantly, this action could mark a new US strategy for pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace: Telling the truth.

The US State Department, which has always opposed moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, understands very well that any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will leave at least western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and part of sovereign Israel. So why will the State Department nevertheless advise President-Elect Donald Trump not to fulfill his promise to move the embassy?

Moving the embassy to Israel’s actual capital would provoke Arab anger at the US and lead to protests that might turn violent. The foreign policy establishment wishes to prevent this result and protect America’s status as an “honest broker.” It therefore continues to insist that because Jerusalem’s ultimate status can only be determined by agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and that it would be wrong for the US to “prejudge” the outcome by acting on the truth that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem.

This is a perfect example of the kind of politically-correct establishment pettifogging that Trump campaigned against. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a low-cost action that he could take as soon as he is inaugurated, and one of the easiest and quickest changes in policy that he could implement. The new US consulate in Jerusalem was built with security features that would be needed for an embassy, so the move could be started almost immediately, without any prejudice to the Palestinian claim to eastern Jerusalem.


The large new US consulate in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighbourhood was built with security features that would be needed for an embassy, so a move could be started almost immediately.

The State Department’s insistence on the diplomatic fiction that none of Jerusalem is part of Israel helps preserve the Palestinian hope that, someday, Israel will be forced to give up its capital and will be destroyed as the independent, democratic Jewish state.

That Palestinian hope is the main obstacle to peace. The Palestinians can only make peace when their community – and perhaps the Arab world of which it is a part – comes to understand that international pressure will never force Israel to acquiesce in its own destruction. One of the best ways the US can demonstrate that it will never consent to the Palestinian destruction of Israel is for Washington to stop ignoring blatant Palestinian lies that work against peace.

There is another way that an American truth-telling strategy could encourage peace.  Palestinian leadership now tells its people – and most of them believe – that compromise with Israel would be immoral because Israel is a colonial invader that stole Palestinian land by force. By that argument, Israel has no moral claim to any of the land, and any concession to it would be dishonorable.

But Israel is descended from Jewish kingdoms that ruled parts of the land for centuries in ancient times. It too has a traditional base for moral claims to the territory (in addition to legal claims from the League of Nations mandate). If the Palestinians recognized this truth, they would see that compromise between the two groups, each of which has valid claims to the land, could be an honorable way to end the dispute and not a cowardly yielding to force.

To undermine this moral basis for compromise with Israel, Palestinian leadership flatly denies any ancient Jewish connection to the land. They claim, for example, that there never was a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount from which Jesus could have chased the money-changers. Yet their own history belies this claim. In 1929, the Supreme Moslem Council in Jerusalem, in its guide to the Mount, wrote: “[The Temple Mount’s] identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.”

The US may not be able to induce the Palestinian Authority to stop inciting its constituents and teaching its children to hate Israel. But there are ways in which the US can expose and eventually defeat Palestinian lies that work against peace; ways that do not require getting agreement from anyone.

Exploring these new approaches would constitute a striking change in diplomatic direction. There are many examples of the West rejecting truth on behalf of the Palestinians and their Arab supporters. For example, some Western countries went along with the recent denial by UNESCO of any ancient Jewish connection to the land of Israel. The US politely ignores the Palestinian lie that there was never a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount.

If the US consistently tells the truth about the ancient Jewish presence in Palestine, and publicly refuses to swallow the Palestinians’ false and anti-peace denials of history, the Palestinian leadership will not for long be able to keep the truth from their people, or at least from the large educated class.

The US has followed a policy of avoiding truths that are painful or embarrassing to the Arabs for at least 50 years. It hasn’t worked. Maybe it is time to try the strategy of telling the truth. Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, in accordance with the long-standing congressional position, would be a good way for President Trump to make a start on a truth-telling strategy – as well as to fulfill a campaign promise.

Dr. Max Singer, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is co-founder of the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

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Article 3

Israel’s Population Bomb is Disappearing

by Elliott Abrams

Council on Foreign Relations, November 16, 2016

Everyone knows that because Arab population growth rates in Israel and the West Bank far exceed Jewish ones, the percentage of the population that is not Jewish will rise steadily.  The only problem with that statement is that it is not true.


New born babies in the maternity ward of a Jerusalem hospital.

As The Times of Israel has just reported,

The fertility rates of Jewish and Arab women were identical for the first time in Israeli history in 2015, according to figures released by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday….Jewish and Arab women had given birth to an average of 3.13 children as of last year….

The explanation is a sharp drop in Arab Israeli birth rates while Jewish birth rates have been rising: “In 2000, the fertility among the country’s Arab population stood at 4.3 children per woman, while the fertility rate of Jewish women was 2.6. Since then the gap has narrowed as the Arab rate dropped off and the Jewish fertility rates steadily increased.”

This high fertility rate is not simply an artifact of Israel’s growing ultra-Orthodox or Haredi population; the non-Haredi fertility rate is 2.6.  (This is, by the way, a far higher fertility rate than that of American Jews, which is 1.9; the replacement rate is 2.3.) The overall Israeli Jewish fertility rate of 3.13 also suggests that the population balance between Israel and the West Bank will not change: “Palestinian fertility on the West Bank has already fallen to the Israeli fertility rate of three children per woman, if we believe the Palestine Ministry of Health numbers rather than the highly suspect Central Bureau of Statistics data. In 1963, Israeli Arab women had eight or nine children; today they have three, about the same as Israeli Jews.”

What are the political implications? Whatever they are, the debate must begin with facts rather than assumptions–including facts about population growth.

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