On May 26th, 1948 the Jordanian Legionnaires entered the Jewish Quarter in the East Jerusalem. Almost 2000 of permanent Jewish residents, including some of the oldest Jewish families were forced out. The Jewish Quarter was left without a single Jew for the first time in almost a millennium. Jordanians began a wholesale destruction of the ancient neighborhood blowing up over twenty synagogues.

Mahmoud Abbas is a graduate of the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, where he earned a in Sciences,  the Soviet equivalent of a PhD. His doctoral dissertation was "The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism". The Arabic version of his  work was published in 1984.  In the book, Abbas argues that the  Holocaust was exaggerated and that Zionists created "the myth" of six million murdered Jews, which he called a "fantastic lie".

On May 17, 1939 British  government issued a White Paper which rejected the 1937 plan proposed by  the Peel Commission to partition Palestine between Arabs and Jews on the grounds that it was not feasible. The document stated that Palestine would be neither a Jewish state nor an Arab one, but an independent state to be established within ten years. Jewish immigration to Palestine was limited to 75,000 for the first five years, subject to the "economic absorptive capacity", and would later be contingent on Arab consent. The most Stringent restrictions were imposed on land acquisition by Jews. 

By 1840s, Jews became the largest ethnic group in Jerusalem, numbering over 7,000 individuals. During the following decade number of Jews making their way to the       Holy City doubled. The majority of new arrivals were Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe but there were also few hundered immigrants from Yemen.

In long history of Jerusalem no Arab or Muslim power ever claimed Jerusalem as their capital.   Jerusalem has been ruled by many invaders but other than the Crusaders, the rulers set up their capitals  in Caesarea, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, and Constantinople, not Jerusalem.

The breaking of the wine glass at Jewish weddings is followed by reciting the Hebrew version of “If I forget you, Oh Jerusalem, may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.” This  passage is referring to the destruction of the Second Temple.



Jerusalem, Trump & Future of the Peace Process

In the aftermath of President Trump's decision to move the American embassy to West Jerusalem and the recognition of it as the capital of Israel we have witnessed all the too familiar scenes of demonstrations and rioting in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza. The billowing smoke from burning tires, the enthusiastic stone throwers and of course the doomsday speeches from Palestinian leaders were the expected side effects of the action taken by the American administration.

As if the unpopular decision was not enough to send the protesters into the frenzy it came from the most controversial political figure of our time, US President Donald J Trump. The avalanche of criticism aimed at him from media outlets and politicians from around the world was absolutely overwhelming. He was called every name in the book and accused of single-handedly killing the peace process and igniting the third Palestinian Intifada.

Droves of foreign correspondents made their way to Jerusalem geared up with huge cameras and protective outfits. They took up the familiar positions around the potential trouble spots to record another chapter in this tragic soap opera that seems to have no end in sight. Fortunately for the time being the level of rioting did not live up to expectations and most of the reporters moved on to other stories.

President Trump was accused of complete ignorance when it came peace process and the intricacies of the historical facts surrounding one of the most enduring conflicts of our time. The problem with that accusation is that the peace process, they are speaking of does not exist and has zero chance of being resurrected if the approach to the problem does not change. Almost every American president, since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, tried their best to find a resolution to the conflict, with varying success, only to experience disappointment and inability to reach the agreement in the end.

President Trump Gives a Statement on Jerusalem, December 6, 2017

   President Trump Gives a Statement on Jerusalem, December 6, 2017.  US Federal Goverment

One of the reasons for continued failures is the preprogrammed approach taken by the United Nations, Europeans and even some American presidents. The UN has voted for the creation of the State of Israel in the aftermath of the Second World War and the horrors of the Holocaust. Unfortunately ever since then under the pressure from Muslim majority states and their sympathizers in Europe this "institution for peace" has been trying their best to delagitimize the Jewish State at every opportunity. If not for the US veto power which has been exercised by most administrations for decades Israel's very existence would be in question.

The exception was a non binding UN Security Council Resolution 2334 passed in December of 2016 which referred to Jewish presence in East Jerusalem as "settlements". Some of the holiest sites in Judaism, including the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter are located in East Jerusalem and were not accessible to Jewish worshipers until 1967 when Israel took control of them as a result of the Six Day War. Regrettably that fact did not sway the US administration, which under orders from then President Barak Obama abstained and allowed this shameful resolution to pass.

The absurdity that comes with Israel hatred and one sided approach to the conflict also exhibited itself on October of 2016 with a UNESCO resolution regarding Jerusalem which was sponsored by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.

It purposely ignores Jewish ties to Jerusalem that go back 3000 years and repeatedly refers to the Jewish holy sites only by their Islamic names. According to UNESCO not only Jews do not deserve to live in Jerusalem, they do not deserve their history and heritage ether. No wonder that both Trump administration and Israelis severed their relationship with this organisation that only serves in interest of the Palestinians and their allies.

Actions like the above mentioned UN and UNESCO resolutions coupled with a constant barrage of criticism emeinating from very powerful pro-Palestinian camp keeps the hopes of the Palestinians for the favorable resolution of the conflict pretty high making it impossible for their leaders to consider any reasonable offer. Why would they agree to a lesser deal than the one that the third party entities are trying to insure for them.

Palestinians are so used to the one sided treatment that a single pro-Israeli act taken by US president drove their leadership into complete meltdown. Supporting a Palestinian point of view is written in stone and cannot be questioned by anyone, including the president of the United States. When the Indian government issued a relatively neutral statement regarding American action, they were immediately asked for clarification. Even the slightest deviation from the accepted talking points is considered a fallacy and will be harshly criticized.

Trump, who is not a career polititian or so called Middle East expert, probably took a fresh look at the current situation and realized that there is a great imbalance in the way Israelis and the Palestinians have been treated by the rest of the world. By injecting this incremental step he tried to restore some semblance of logic to the situation where one party can do no wrong and other is vilified at the drop of the hat.

Another reason behind the Trump's strategy is that since the so called peace process is not going anywhere moving the US embassy to Jerusalem may provoke a response that will force both the Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table. Trump administration is also working on the peace deal to be presented to the world within a couple of months. The hope is that by providing the Israelis with this "gift", that has been promised but never delivered by successive American presidents, the Natinyahu government will be forced to be more flexible during the potential future negotiations.

President of Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has been refusing to sit down with Israelis and engage in negotiations for a while now. His conditions for resuming the peace talks are a cessation of the settlement construction and recognition of the pre-1967 lines as the future borders of the Palestinian state. Those conditions are a non starter with Israelis. If the Arab leaders did not provoke the 1967 war we would not be in this situation to begin with. For Israel those borders are indefensible and will only invite more aggression from their neighbors in the unlikely case of agreeing to it. As far as the settlements are concerned, those are negotiable items if and when the Palestinians are ready for discussions.

And then there is the most difficult subject of contention which is the status of Jerusalem. Ahead of the Vise President Pence's visit to the region the senior official in Trump Administration made a comment that "we cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didn't include the Western Wall". American official just states the obvious. Next day a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement indicating that the Palestinian Authority will not accept any changes to the borders of East Jerusalem which Israel has captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.

He also added that "this American administration is outside the peace process". Actually the American administration made it abundantly clear for anyone who is willing to listen that the current status quo of the Holy City is not being altered in any way and the final status will be negotiated between the involved parties. In fact, Trump did not inject anything new into the Jerusalem subject except acting up on already existing US law. It is named a Jerusalem Embassy Act and it was overwhelmingly passed by Congress on October 23rd, 1995 under Democrat president Bill Clinton.

The Act recognises Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and it's original purpose was to set aside funds for the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This act was reaffirmed on June 5, 2017 when both parties in the United States Senate voted in favor of it by 90 to zero margin. The only thing Trump administration did differently from previous administrations was to go beyond the rhetoric and actually put that vote to life.

Every six months the US presidents sign a waiver postponing such move and while Trump signed another waiver he also instructed the State Department to begin preparations for embassy relocation to Jerusalem. During his recent visit to Israel Vise President Pence has confirmed that "United States Embassy will open before the end of the next year".

Mike Pence's visit to Israel and his historic speech in Knesset drew harsh condemnations from the Palestinian Authority and Israel's Arab Mks. They refused to meet with the American Vice President and instead preferred to express their outrage to the media. PA Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been repeating to anyone that would listen: "We won't accept any American peace plan, US no longer a mediator".

Mike Pence and Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem Jenuary 23, 2018 USDOS

        Mike Pence and Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, Jenuary 23, 2018. US Department of State

That statement falls into the category of a wishful thinking. Even the most loyal of Palestinian supporters, while critical of US moves, acknowledge the central role US will play in any negotiations. Speaking from Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland, King Abdullah of Jordan noted that "We cannot have a peace process or peace solution without the role of the United States."

For his part Vise President Pence expressed the hope that the Palestinian leadership would consider re-entering the negotiation. "Our message to president Abbas and the Palestinian Authority is the door is open, President Trump is absolutely committed to doing everything the United States can achieve a a peace agreement that brings an end two decades of conflict."

Unfortunately the chances of PA entering the negotiations process at this time are not very good. Mahmoud Abbas would rather spend his time traveling around the world trying to delagitimize the Jewish State and badmouth Trump. It's the same guy who insists that paying special pensions to the families of Palestinian terrorists killing the Israelis, around 350 million dollars a year worth, is the way towards the lasting peace. Israel has asked the Palestinians, many times to end the practice of rewards through so called “martyrs’ fund” but It's not likely to happen as it keeps the flames of hatred burning indefinitely.

Mahmoud Abbas's latest rhetoric in regards to Trump's Jerusalem move seems to have found the fertile soil among his constituents. On January 27, 2018 Palestinian television aired a video of Palestinians carrying out a mock-execution of US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Images of death and killing are very popular amongst the Palestinians. Fortunately unlike other hateful incidents this time nobody died.

How is not talking with Israelis will advance the cause of peace. Mahmoud Abbas jumps on the airplane any time some foreign leader is willing to talk to him, but will not drive for 20 minutes from Ramallah to Jerusalem to meet with Netanyahu to discuss peace. He has consistently appeased the most radical segments of his population and finances virulent anti-Semitic propaganda through PA controlled media. That's a fool's strategy of alienating the very people you are supposedly trying to make a peace with. Unless you been lying all this time about your peaceful intentions.

The latter seems to be the case. And the reason for it is the same that prohibited Yasser Arafat to make a deal with Israelis in July of 1990 during the negotiations hosted by then US president Bill Clinton at Camp David. Israelis made a very reasonable offer to which Arafat never responded. Instead with raging Intifada as a background, he went on the grand standing tour of Arab countries where he was praised as a hero for not giving in to Jews. It felt as if Arafat was more interested in raising his own status than negotiating for peace.

Bill Clinton placed the blame squarely on Arafat as he reflected on what could have been a historic deal: "I regret that in 2000 Arafat missed the opportunity to bring that nation into being and pray for the day when the dreams of the Palestinian people for a state and a better life will be realized in a just and lasting peace".

Mahmoud Abbas had his own opportunity at peace deal with Israelis in November of 2007 when US President George W Bush hosted a conference in Annapolis, Maryland. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert went pretty far with his offer during the negotiations, but Palestinian leadership was not prepared to accept it and the opportunity was lost again.

How could they, when few months prior an internal Palestinian conflict led to the expulsion of the Abbas's own Fatah officials from Gaza and military takeover of the strip by radical group Hamas. They boycotted the Annapolis conference and issued threats against the participants. Many excuses were offered why the conference failed, but there was no way Abbas was going to agree to anything under those circumstances.

Abbas has the same problem as his cohort Arafat had in 1990. He refuses to negotiate because the only deal acceptable to him, besides 1967 borders and complete control of Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem, would also be the right of return for millions of Palestinians, which for all practical purposes would mean the end of Israel as we know it and almost certainly lead to civil war. No Israeli leader in his right mind would ever agree to that. Actually it's very doubtful that if tomorrow Israel was to offer Palestinians everything they are asking for that their leaders would sign off on the deal.

The reaction of the Palestinians to Trump's decision regarding the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital revealed all their pretense of being the willing partners for peace. Hysterical Mahmoud Abbas went on the worst anti-Semitic tirade in recent memory. What he said was such a falsehood that it felt as if we were back in time to 1948 when Israel was fighting for it's survival and such rhetoric was a norm among the enemies of the fledgling Jewish state.

President Donald Trump and President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead, PD, October 2, 2017

President Donald Trump and President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly    Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead, PD, October 2, 2017 

On January 14, 2018, incensed by new American positions on Jerusalem, Abbas called a Palestinian Central Council conference in Ramallah, where he gave a two hour speech that will be remembered for a long time for it's hateful content. One could say he showed the world how he really views the state of Israel and its place among the nations. Mr. Abbas left very little room for interpretation as his position on the entire conflict became crystal clear.

Among some of the gems Palestinian leader offered to 124 member council were the same recycled lies that been fed to Palestinian population for generations. One of the worst was his suggestion that European Jews during the Holocaust chose to face the "murder and slaughter" over escape to British Mandate ruled Palestine. This comes from the man who earlier in his life was a Holocaust denier and now is using it to back up another lie. He also forgot to mention that in 1939 in the aftermath of the Arab Revolt, British government issued a document called the White Paper which called to severely cut Jewish immigration to the Holy Land and was strictly inforced by the British Army.

His other assertion was that the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, imported Jews from Arab countries against their will. Actually hundreds of thousands of Jews who lived in those counties for over millennium were forced out by Arabs as a payback for lsrael's creation. Many were dispossessed of their homes and businesses and had to start over from nothing when they fled to Israel. Their successors build the country to what it is today while Arab leaders like Abbas and his predecessor Yasir Arafat, condemned their people to the eternal struggle.

Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Natinyahu correctly summarized the reason why it came to this when he noted: The root of the conflict between us and the Palestinians is their steadfast refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any borders whatsoever."

But the most telling portion of Abbas's lecture in history was his denial of the Jewish roots to the land of Israel. “Israel is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Jews". This is not the first or the last time Palestinian leaders would try to rob the Jews of their heritage as it has been done for decades by the anti-Israeli propaganda machine. Palestinian children are taught this version of history from the moment they are able to speak and by the time they are adults the new generation of the Jew haters joins the ranks.

Jason Greenblatt, his chief envoy to the Middle East peace process, sounded off in respoce to Palestinian President's historical revisionism:  “Pres. Abbas states about Jerusalem: ‘It is Arab, Muslim and Christian and makes no mention of any Jewish ties. Nothing peaceful or productive can come from statements like this.”

 Abbas has commented in the past that the Jews "are really good at faking and counterfeiting history and religion". Speaking of faking the religion, only last month, while offering his Christmas greetings, Mahmoud Abbas called Jesus "a Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions around the world". For thousands of years Jesus was a Jew until the day when Palestinian leader decided to rewrite the Christian scriptures. It is not likely that he ever opened up the New Testament, otherwise he would not have effectively erased the basic tenant of Christianity for it's 2.5 billion adherents.

As if the Palestinian strategy of deligitimizing Israel by altering history to fit their narrative is not enough, they also routinely erase the Jewish state from geographic maps. In 2017 books which are written by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and used in West Bank schools run by the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) were snowing Palestine as a single state without any mention of Israel.

When the PA honors it's citizens for notable accomplishments they award them with plaques depicting Palestinian state which encompasses the entire state of Israel. If one asks the Palestinian today to describe their land in geographic terms the most likely answer is going to be "between the river and the sea" meaning between the Jordan river and Mediterranean sea. That same line is often used whenever there is an anti-Israeli demonstration in the West Bank, Gaza and abroad. What needs to be noted is that this description erases Israel from the map.

To say that the new Jerusalem policy announced by Trump administration send shockwaves through Palestinian camp and their supporters would be a major understatement. Their carefully crafted strategy of vilifying Israel and denying Jewish roots to Jerusalem hit a major obstacle. While recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital was a symbolic act the embassy move is real and the process has already begun. As much as the opponents of the US action question it's legitimacy the precedent was set and the critics will have to live with it.

While nobody can reverse the US decisions on Jerusalem, the opponents of the move took their case to the old reliable forum which is known for mass production of anti-Israeli resolutions. On December 21st, 2017 UN General Assembly by majority vote passed a resolution condemning the Trump administration's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. A total of 128 countries voted in favor of resolution, 9 countries voted against it and 35 abstained.

Not surprisingly, EU members were some of the more vocal critics. The domestic political reality in many countries that are currently EU members is driving their agenda to appease the powerful leftist and the rapidly growing Muslim constituencies. Their position will get progressively more anti-Israeli as the number of Muslims arriving in Europe will grow given the current rate of migration. At the same time, EU's pro-Israel voices are in decline as their Jewish populations are under the great pressure due to the rising antisemitism.

The 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation had their own "extraordinery" summit on December 15, 2017 in Istanbul, Turkey where they were warmly greeted by increasingly volatile President Tayyip Erdogan. They recognized East Jerusalem as capital of a Palestinian State and asked other countries to follow the suit.

OIC secretary general Yousef Al-Othaimeen condemned American decision and called it a "provocation of the feelings of Muslims around the world" and added that "it will create a situation of instability in the region". Someone needs to remind him that the region has been on fire for few years now and Israel had nothing to do with it. For his part Mahmoud Abbas repeated his new theme: "We shell not accept any role for US in the peace process".

Arab regimes while criticizing the Trump's decision about Jerusalem are not interested in having the protracted protests get out of hand. The memories of the Arab Spring and it's aftermath, for which the Arab countries are still paying a heavy price, are very vivid in the minds of their leaders. They want no part of it as current instability in the region coupled with rising imperial ambitions of Iran and Turkey puts the survival of their own regimes at risk. While Jerusalem is an important issue for Arabs and they are very sympathetic to the Palestinians the number one priority for them at this time is self preservation.

If 5-6 years ago, you asked an Arab leader what was the most important issue facing the region they would have universally given the same answer, Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While some of them may still provide the same response today it would not be a truthful one. The main driving force of current Middle East conflict is the crises within Islam itself between the Sunny and Shia adherents of the religion and the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Given the process of monumental changes in the region, realignment of the 100 year old boundaries, migrating populations and shifting alliances predicting the future even a couple of years ahead is an impossible task. Palestinian leadership which is still divided between West Bank and Gaza despite recent attempts for reconciliation can not even find a common ground with each other, much less with Israel.

Expecting from Mahmoud Abbas to embark on the permanent status talks with Israel given the current climate of raging conflicts all around him is a fantasy. He is currently doing his best impersonation of Yassir Arafat, who made a name for himself in the Muslim World by not ever saying yes to any peace proposal. Abbas went even further by refusing to engage in any talks with Israel and now is cutting out the Americans.

His main strategy is preservation of his administration's grip on Palestinian politics. He seems to be buying time and hoping that the ongoing regional crises will eventually engulf Israel and when defeated or substantially weakened it will not be able to resist an emergence of the new Palestinian state with Jerusalem as it's capital. In the meantime, he will try his best to portray Israel as a bad actor with UN, EU, OIC and other world bodies, prop up the BDS movement through pro Palestinian activists around the world and encourage continual terrorist activity against Israelis killing them with "thousand cuts".

Unfortunately for him Donald Trump has interfered with this well thought out strategy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the embassy. While Palestinians are playing the waiting game the reality on the ground is that Israel gets more entrenched with every passing day. Additionally, the Palestinian issue is no longer the dominant issue for the regional powers. Now they have to share the stage with Syrians, Iraqies, Kirds and others in ever growing web of Middle Eastern conflicts.

Despite the latest developments, odds are in favor of Palestinian-Israeli issue will still be unresolved when Trump administration is no longer in power. Who knows what the region is going to look like then and who the new US president is going to be. Both Israelis and Palestinians are hoping that whatever future holds, it will favor their side. In the meantime status quo seems to be the only constant in this conflict and looks like it will reign supreme for many years to come.

  By Charles Katel,  February 9, 2018