Out Loud

Uncertainty in Jerusalem

8 December 2017

I write to you in a moment of uncertainty in Israel and the occupied territories. There are reports of demonstrations and of violence.

This follows President Donald Trump’s announcement on Wednesday that he was changing U.S. policy on Jerusalem and beginning a process to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

We all know that the U.S. embassy belongs, one day, in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the decision to make the announcement outside of the context of a peace process and over the objections of the Palestinians was reckless. It risks igniting the tinderbox of anger, frustration, and hopelessness that already exists among Palestinians.

And, of course, it will be Palestinians and Israelis who pay the price for such ham-fisted actions with respect to Jerusalem.

That’s what happened this summer after Israeli police attempted to install metal detectors outside of the Al Aqsa Mosque. That was the case sixteen years ago, when then-Opposition Leader Ariel Sharon went up to the Temple Mount. And that was the case when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened the Hasmonian Tunnels under the Old City of Jerusalem in 1996.

The Parents Circle Bereaved Families Forum sent a letter to President Trump, before he took this action, on behalf of 600 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost a loved one to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They urged him not to do this. They quoted Rami Elhanan, an Israeli man who lost his daughter, Smadar, in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem who said that “not one Jerusalem stone is worth even one drop of blood of one little girl.”

It is frustrating — and scary — to see President Trump ignore the voices of these families, ignore the lessons of history and plow ahead recklessly.

Whether or not this incident will pass without more extensive violence — I do not yet know. What I do know is that the impact of a moment like this is not limited to Israel’s relationships with its neighbors. It can also be a tremendous strain on society, with tensions rising between Jewish and Palestinian Israelis and between Jewish and Palestinian Jerusalemites.

NIF has been investing in fostering stronger relations between these communities. We bring Jews and Arabs together to advocate for a shared society. We advocate for access to education and for other rights of the Palestinians who live in Jerusalem. We bring both Jews and Arabs to stand in solidarity with the victims of terrorism and hate crimes to make sure they know that they are not alone.

On days like today, when the threat of violence is palpable, I know that the work that we have done is the glue that will help Israeli society come together, whatever happens, and carry forward.

  • Mark Rosenberg

    Thanks and congratulations, Daniel. Your third paragraph is the clearest statement of the problem that I have seen:
    ‘We all know that the U.S. embassy belongs, one day, in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the decision to make the announcement outside of the context of a peace process and over the objections of the Palestinians was reckless. It risks igniting the tinderbox of anger, frustration, and hopelessness that already exists among Palestinians.”

  • oceanstater

    while Trump and his allies are wrong to fuel the flames with the embassy move, it has to be said so are Palestinians and their allies in their response. They have to face the fact that Jerusalem is both now the effective capital for Israel’s government and there is no way to peace without that remaining. Palestinians and allies rejectionism and violence has gotten them nowhere, or worse.
    NIF is so right to try to bring the communities together, but to have a wider impact I think it is always important to make reasonable demands on all sides, or else it seems too one-sided.

  • Cyril Atkins

    The world accepts that Arabs riot and are violent How can you even speak to anyone who riot violently when anything does not go their way. They are uncivilized and barbaric and are impossible to talk with. regretfully they will; never change. What is really upsetting is that Israeli Arabs especially those that are members of the Knesset.are in the forefront of this violence how can you then say that they are loyal Israelis.

  • Alain Eskenasy

    Many muslim leaders in the world rose the aim of violence outbursts to prevent Trump declaration. The Hamas even promised the opening of “Hell’s doors”. US and UE were used to give in to this terroristic way to rule the world. So the world rewrote the history at the UNESCO and denied any historic link between Jews and the Temple Mount! Trump reminded that the boundaries have to be accepted through negociations. So where is the extremism in this case? I hope that after the actual agitation, peace seekers of both sides will be heard.