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I lived in Jerusalem, Israel, for two happy years, and much of my work ever since has involved U.S.-Israel relations. I should know better, yet still I am surprised at the rending of garments and apocalyptic predictions pouring forth from western pundits over something that will not change a single stone in the holy city, or a single person’s access to its holy sites, or a single border—and that overwhelming majorities of Congress and virtually every president and presidential candidate has endorsed for decades. Chalk it up in part to the hysteria that has characterized our political debates in the past two years, and also in part to the enormous influence that former Obama administration officials have in setting media narratives and frames for covering issues on which the current president repudiates the approach of the previous one. So here are some notes of calm, in no particular order:
One of the first arguments critics make against recognizing Jerusalem is that it would so anger the Palestinians that the peace process would never recover. But the Palestinians have rejected every offer of statehood, and have not been willing to engage in real talks with Israel since the Bush administration. They’re already unwilling to negotiate, and were especially unwilling during the Obama years, when the president was openly acting as their advocate. If they are so incensed that the United States is finally acknowledging the plain fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel that they will never talk again, it tells us that a negotiated agreement was never possible in the first place. Despite the likelihood of protests and perhaps some violence in the next few days, U.S. recognition of Jerusalem will actually promote peace in the long run because it will help disabuse the Arab world of its fantasy of...
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