Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America serve up all crazy martinis today. First, they wonder why no Senate Democrats demanded Al Franken’s resignation after six allegations of misconduct but 33 suddenly decided that a seventh accuser was the last straw. They also get a kick out of Democrats who have long called for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but are now outraged that President Trump actually did it. And they scratch their heads as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says it is an “open question” as to whether the United States will participate in the Winter Olympics in South Korea next year due to security concerns.
Israelis Cheer Trump Recognition of Jerusalem as Capital
President Trump Wednesday became the first U.S. president to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced the process would begin to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move hailed in Israel as a stepping stone to peace but fiercely condemned by the Palestinians.
“Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious, that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality,” said Trump during a White House statement Wednesday afternoon.
He also said recognizing Jerusalem as the capital means the U.S. will be moving its embassy there.
“Consistent with the Jerusalem Embassy Act, I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” said Trump.
Retired Israeli Brigadier General Elihu Ben-Onn is now a radio talk show host in Jerusalem. He says Trump’s announcement is of great historical significance.
“For us, it’s a very important day,” said Ben-Onn. “I’m very happy with the announcement of President Trump. This is history after all. Now, for the first time in 70 years, we hear that the President of the United States declaring that Jerusalem is the capital of of the state of Israel.”
Ben-Onn says Israeli claim on Jerusalem does not just date back to the creation of the modern state of Israel following World War II, but thousands of years.
“I live in Jerusalem. I was born in Jerusalem, and all my family is in Jerusalem. Also, I know that King David was here 3,000 years ago. King David and the Jewish people were here for so many years, so many decades. It is clear to everyone that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel and the Jewish people,” said Ben-Onn.
The Old Testament dates the connection back several centuries before David, beginning with God’s call for Abraham to get up and go to the land of Canaan.
Given that historical connection, Ben-Onn hopes Trump’s decision will be followed by the decision of many other nations to move their embassies to Jerusalem.
“All Israelis believe that Jerusalem is our capital. The government is here. The parliament is here. All the embassies are in Tel Aviv but they go every day to Jerusalem. What kind of game is this? Maybe today this game and this hypocrisy will end,” said Ben-Onn.
He says there were some embassies in Jerusalem decades ago. However, following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which Ben-Onn served, pressure from Arab states compelled those nations to move their installations to Tel Aviv.
In his announcement, President Trump also argued that recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital is an important step in the peace process. Ben-Onn agrees.
“If you do not recognize my capital city, how can you sign a peace treaty with the state of Israel. Peace is like marriage. It’s like a wedding. The two sides have to recognize the rights of the other side for the right to exist,” said Ben-Onn.
“As long as the Palestinians and the Arabs before that didn’t recognize the state of Israel and the capital of Jerusalem, wee couldn’t go forward. Now I believe President Trump opened a new direction for peace,” said Ben-Onn.
That’s not how the Palestinians see it. Those leaders are calling for three “days of rage.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says this action eliminates the United States as a credible mediator in the peace process and will lead to “endless wars.”
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is taking it much further. He tells Haaretz that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem means the Palestinians are no longer seeking a two-state solution but a future in which Israel does not exist.
“President Trump has delivered a message to the Palestinian people: The two-state solution is over. Now is the time to transform the struggle to one of one state with equal rights for everyone living in historic Palestine, from the river to the sea,” said Erekat.
While concerned about the immediate reaction, Ben-Onn hopes the Arabs and Palestinians see Wednesday’s developments as a major opportunity.
‘I believe the Arab states will not do anything but maybe the radical Palestinian groups will try. But I’m sure that they will stop because they have more to lose than to win if they start violence,” said Ben-Onn.
If a two-state solution is still on the table, how will Israel deal with the Palestinian demand that the capital of a Palestinian state be East Jerusalem?
Ben-Onn says with the compressed geography of the region, the Palestinian capital could be very close to Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a clear fact. Everybody knows that. Which part, North or South, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Abu Dis to the east, will be the future capital of the Palestinian state if they will agree to accept that,” said Ben-Onn, noting Bethlehem is just five minutes from Jerusalem and Ramallah is just over 10 minutes from the city.
Ben-Onn says both sides need to realize the conflict will never end until they try to reach common ground.
“We are not going to leave this area, and our neighbors, the Palestinians, are not going to leave this area. The only solution is to go back to the negotiation table and framework and find solutions for the conflicts with the help of the United States and the rest of the world,” said Ben-Onn. “I’m very optimistic.”
‘Israel Is Here to Stay’
A former Clinton administration official is blasting President Obama for his treatment of Israel over the past eight years and strongly encourages President-Elect Trump to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Lawrence J. Haas served as communications director for Vice President Al Gore and is now a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council . His book “Harry and Arthur” was named one of the top ten non-fiction books of 2016 by the Wall Street Journal.
In a recent column for U.S. News & World Report, Haas makes the case for moving the embassy. In a subsequent interview, Haas told us the move comes down to one simple and clear message.
“Israel is here to stay,” said Haas, who says that message would drive a stake through the Arab and Palestinian fantasy that Israel can be wiped off the map.
“You hear [the] expression all the time, ‘Palestine: From the River to the Sea.’ Well, Palestine from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea means no Israel. I think it’s time for the United States to send a very clear message to the world that Israel is here to stay, that Jerusalem is the historic homeland and capital of the Jewish people. That’s a reality,” said Haas.
“We are not doing anyone any good by ignoring the reality that Jerusalem is always going to be the capital of Israel. We might as well come to that recognition,” said Haas.
Haas believes the move would also be an important signal to Israel and the world that the Trump administration will approach the Middle East much differently than Obama has, particularly after the December United Nations vote in which the U.S. refused to veto a resolution condemning Israel for its settlements and other disputed lands.
Haas says the non-veto was bad enough, but the Obama administration’s actions behind the scenes was especially galling.
“They not only allowed it to go through but frankly they worked behind the scenes to ensure that there was enough support for it, so that while they were abstaining from it, everybody else was voting yes. It was beyond the benign action of a simple abstention,” said Haas.
Those actions left Haas livid.
“I reacted very furiously to it. It seemed to be the final nail in a sense that the administration had nailed into Israel’s coffin over the last eight years. The theory being that if they were tough on Israel, Israel would make very painful concessions and we would get peace,” said Haas.
He says the Obama strategy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a flop.
“In the process, they were very tough on our closest ally in the region. They didn’t really demand anything from the Palestinian side. As a result, the Palestinians dug in even harder. We didn’t see negotiations. The Israelis felt that they couldn’t compromise because they were being pressured so much and the Palestinians didn’t think they needed to compromise,” said Haas.
“It was a formula for disaster and that’s what we’ve had over the past eight years,” Haas added.
Haas rejects the notion that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would serve as a spark for even greater tension and instability in the region. He says that argument is based on two faulty assumptions.
“The Palestinians have never needed a reason to be violent against Israel, whether it is stabbing Jews in Jerusalem or it is shooting them in the West Bank or is ramming soldiers at checkpoints, the Palestinians always find an excuse to try to kill Jews,” said Haas.
He says Israel’s Arab neighbors will only be bothered by an embassy move from a public relations standpoint.
“The so-called Arab Street frankly I don’t think cares very much about the Palestinians. The Arab governments clearly don’t care about the Palestinians because they don’t do a thing to help them. They don’t provide any money to the Palestinians . They use this issue to divert attention from problems within their own countries,” said Haas.
“The reality is that to the extent countries will recognize Israel and work with Israel behind the scenes has to do with their own self-interests. Do they feel that they get more out of working with Israel or not working with Israel? This fear of being provocative I just don’t buy. I think there are larger forces at work that will determine Israeli relations with different Arab countries,” said Haas.
Three Martini Lunch 1/6/17
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud House Republicans and Democrats for an overwhelming vote condemning the UN resolution against Israel. They also groan as the Trump transition and Gen. James Mattis butt heads over who should fill top Pentagon positions. And they get a kick out of news that former Bush operative Matthew Dowd is thinking of running against Ted Cruz in 2018.
Three Martini Lunch 12/23/16
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer the Italian police for taking out the Berlin terrorist, the Australian authorities for foiling a Christmas Day terrorist attack and those responsible for peacefully ending a hijacking in Malta. They also get a kick out of Harry Reid calling the DNC worthless and Joe Biden concluding that Hillary Clinton never figured out why she was running. And they applaud Donald Trump for getting Egypt to scrap a UN resolution condemning Israel after hearing the Obama administration might not oppose it.