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Will Trump Keep Jerusalem Promise?

Binyamin Rose

Deputy FM Tzipi Hotovely to Mishpacha: “We’re getting good indications”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

 Mishpacha image

IMPLICIT TRUST Donald Trump trusts Jared Kushner implicitly. How will Abu Mazen react to Jared? (Photos: AFP, Imagebank)

A merica’s next Middle East peace envoy will also sport the initials J.K., but his name is Jared Kushner, not John Kerry.

Expect Kushner to navigate a departure from the tired “two-state solution” approach that had its last rites at this week’s Paris peace conference.

Kushner is Trump’s closest and most loyal advisor. Without him, Hillary Clinton would be taking the oath of office. Kushner formulated the big data campaign that identified Rust Belt states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan as ripe for Trump’s picking.

It will take more than a gift for numbers to solve the irreconcilable differences fueling the Arab-Israeli conflict, however.

Those differences will be intensified if Trump carries out his campaign promise to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — and the Palestinian Authority keeps theirs.

Mahmoud Al-Habbash, religious affairs advisor to PA chairman Abu Mazen declared on the official PA television that such a move would be “a declaration of war on all Muslims.” Palestinian Media Watch, a Jerusalem-based NGO that monitors Palestinian incitement, reports five more PA officials issued similar threats, including Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the PLO Executive Committee, who said: “If you transfer the embassy and agree to the annexation of the settlements in the West Bank, you will drag the region into a state of anarchy, extremism, and lawlessness.”

Following the threats, reports have circulated that Trump might be recalibrating the move. One report suggested Trump might make do with allowing David Friedman, his ambassador to Israel, to work out of Jerusalem. Or the US might suffice with a symbolic cornerstone of a Jerusalem embassy and then freeze construction.

Asked about the reports during a one-on-one interview in Jerusalem, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Mishpacha, “I’ve heard. All I can say is all the indications we got is that Trump is very serious about moving the embassy.”

Pressed for details, Hotovely added: “Since the dialogue between us and the administration hasn’t started yet because Trump is not in the White House, we can’t tell you where it stands, but we got very good indications that he actually stands behind his promise. We’ll be welcoming this decision, which we think is a historic decision and very suitable to celebrating the 50-year anniversary of Jerusalem being united.”

John Kerry says his goodbyes as he leaves the Middle East peace process to his successor

So far, security authorities have kept mum about expectations for violent demonstrations, or plans to quell such violence.

The 70 nations of the world meeting in Paris on Sunday expressed their concern via what an unnamed French diplomat called the passing of a “subliminal message to the Trump administration” in their final communiqué, asking all sides to refrain from unilateral steps, including on Jerusalem.

If PA threats don’t dissuade Trump, neither will bland, diplomatic pronouncements from an international community Trump distrusts.

However, little is known about what a Trump administration peace process, with Jared Kushner as his messenger, might entail. Kushner grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in New Jersey known for philanthropy to Israel, including donations to yeshivos in Judea and Samaria. During his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson gave an indication that the State Department will downplay Arab-Israeli peace. “Sometimes you just need to skip a generation to get rid of all the baggage of the past,” Tillerson said.

That baggage has become more burdensome since the 1994 Oslo Accords, when the Palestinian Authority assumed control of portions of the West Bank, using foreign funding to rewrite schoolbooks to disseminate anti-Semitic propaganda the world hasn’t seen since Nazi Germany.

Hotovely said she will release a plan next month, in coordination with Israel’s Ministry of Education, to combat incitement in Palestinian schools. “For too many years, this has been neglected,” said Hotovely. “This is not part of our curriculum, to educate children to terrorism. We have all the legal abilities to stop that. It’s only a matter of [making] a decision.”

However, Israel’s legal authority extends only to school districts in east Jerusalem under Israeli control. Stopping incitement in Gaza and West Bank schools, some of which are under UN control, will require the international community to listen to Israel, rather than deliver a lecture.

“The international community has to understand that when they put their money into textbooks with anti-peace and anti-coexistence messaging, then they should be more activist in monitoring the books that they sponsor,” Hotovely said.

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