by Donna Carol Voss |
One of Donald Trump’s most notable achievements in the last 16 months is giving Israel the option to go big or go home, i.e., die trying to assert its rights as a sovereign state in the Middle East. Israel is having its moment thanks to unprecedented US support, the most salient feature of which is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The move was widely criticized with even close allies like Britain objecting that it was “unhelpful.” Never to be deterred, Donald Trump’s administration opened the new US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday.
President Trump sent a video message to the ebullient ceremony:
“Today Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government. It is the home of the Israeli legislature, and the Israeli Supreme Court, and Israel’s prime minister and president. Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital.”
With an irrepressible smile, Benjamin Netanyahu declared,
“What a glorious day. Remember this moment. This is history. President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history.”
Fallout from the embassy-opening ceremony on Monday was immediate. Tens of thousands of Palestinians held mass “demonstrations” (code for frontal assault) along the Gaza border with Israel. Actions included cutting the border fence and stealing Israeli security cameras; using women and children as human shields; burning tires along the border; inciting “demonstrators” to throw stones and Molotov cocktails into Israeli territory; and using the “demonstrations” as cover for harming or even abducting soldiers. (Quotes are used around “demonstrators” to distinguish them from the civilized world, which neither uses women and children as human shields nor launches Molotov cocktails at opponents.)
As is its customary practice before firing into civilian areas, Israel dropped Arabic-language leaflets into Gaza early Monday morning:
“You are taking part in violent riots which jeopardize your lives. Hamas is taking advantage of you in order to hide its failures and is threatening you and your family members’ well-being.”
Despite the warnings, “demonstrators” attempted to breach the Gaza border, and Israel defended its nearby settlements with live ammunition, killing 10 Palestinians on Monday (a total of 52 since the violence started six weeks ago) and wounding 200 more. Hamas said the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) killed 28 and injured 627 with live fire. (Real time updates are provided here.)
Things have heated up since President Trump gave Israel its go big or go home option in December, most notably the recent World War III-potentiating conflict with Iran. Both France and Germany counseled Israel to restrain itself, but Israel apparently really believes it has the right to exist and defend its people. With the US solidly behind Israel and simultaneously antagonizing every Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim in the world, Israel might as well use their go big or go home moment to prove the point. Peace at all costs is no peace at all, and Israel has not had a moment of peace since its founding.
When the state of Israel was created in 1948—the 70thanniversary of which was Monday—it was immediately attacked by all the surrounding nations along with some local Arab populations. About 800,000 Jews were expelled from the surrounding Arab countries and fled to the new state of Israel where they were fully integrated into the society. At the same time, about 800,000 Arabs left what was suddenly designated the state of Israel, some of whom were expelled but most of whom left at the behest of Israel’s opponents. The latter group of Arabs were told they could return to their homes once the Israelis were defeated, which was supposed to happen quickly. They are still waiting.
(A detailed history of the Palestinian and Jewish refugees is beyond the scope of this piece, but a good summary can be found here or here.)
The so-called peace negotiations in 1948, 1967, 2000 and 2008 were pointless, with Israel willing to give up almost everything to get anything and the Arabs (and then Palestinians) willing to give up virtually nothing. In 2005, Israel pulled out of Gaza entirely, ceding total control to the Palestinians. Israel left every home, every farm, and every business, and Hamas turned it into a terrorist base for sending rockets into Israel. The border between Gaza and Israel was the site of Monday’s “demonstrations.”
Israel has long been willing—and forced—to defend itself, and it is truly remarkable that it still exists today given the decades of onslaught from without. To this point in history, Israelis have pursued peace, insisting only on their right to exist as a sovereign state. But history proves that peace isn’t possible for Israel no matter how much they’re willing to give up in return.
The rest of the world wants Israel to restrain itself so we don’t have to deal with open conflict in the Middle East, but Israel has been under attack for 70 years. Maybe they’re tired of being the only ones. Maybe they see this moment as their best opportunity for real survival, something beyond humiliating appeasement that still leaves them vulnerable to daily terrorist attacks. Thanks to President Trump, Israel has its best shot ever. I say good luck to them. It’s about time.
And I say good for Donald Trump. Backing Israel is the right thing to do. As Benjamin Netanyahu said, “President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history.” It’s about time.
photo credit: twiga_swala Jerusalem via photopin (license)