You must have seen the headlines and read the articles. How President Trump moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will be the end of the peace process, how it will lead to alienation of Muslims and so on. Here’s a sample of the kind of commentary you might expect to see on this issue from “reputed” news organizations.
Nonsense! I am here to say that the overt assertion of US power in favor of Israel is the best thing to happen in a long time, both for the free world and for the Muslim world negotiating peace with the Jewish state.
First, let us get the simple legal fact out of the way. The US Congress voted, back in 1995 to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. How come the Embassy was still in Tel Aviv then? Because the US chickened out. Every six months right since 1995, the US President has been signing a “Presidential waiver” to keep the decision to move the Embassy on hold for another six months.
President Trump didn’t “decide” to move the Embassy any more than he “decided” to ban, say drunk driving. He didn’t take a new decision. He merely enforced the law that none of his predecessors dared to.
Now let us get to the heart of why this is an excellent decision. Because, we can never solve the vexed problem in the Middle East as long as we let the bully set the rules of the game.
For a moment, let us ask why “experts” are so worried about moving the Embassy. Simply put, they argue that Muslims in the Middle East would see at as an affront and this would only raise the level of violence.
Explaining why the move is so controversial, CNN put out this graphic showing the number of diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv versus those in Jerusalem.
Okay, so an Embassy in Jerusalem, that too a United States Embassy, would be an extremely unconventional diplomatic move. We get that.
But let’s look at those numbers closely. Just 86 Embassies in Tel Aviv? Why so few? Take Israel’s neighbor, Turkey. There are no less than 125 Embassies in Ankara, the capital of Turkey.
Why so few in Tel Aviv?
Oh, I know! Because a whole bunch of large nations in the Muslim world completely reject the right of the State of Israel to even exist! Here’s from Wikipedia.
Such is their hostility to Israel that many of these countries will not only ban all Israeli passport holders, they won’t even let in anybody who has ever received an Israeli visa or stamp in her/his passport!
However, you never see the so-called Middle East experts and peace lovers care about how staggeringly intolerant that is! Apparently, it’s not a problem for the peace process if all these countries in the Muslim world will ban from entry any person who has ever set foot in Israel.
But god forbid the US should move its Embassy a few kilometers from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. THAT would be “kiss of death” for the peace process.
In other words, because the Muslim world is highly intolerant and is very open about expressing its intolerance, they get a free pass! The free world must however walk on eggshells, trying its best not to step on their toes.
This is what I mean by letting the bully set the rules of the game.
It’s pure and simple appeasement. And that never works.
What President Trump has done here is thrown the gauntlet before the Muslim world. If the Muslim world feels that America is taking an extreme position by moving its Embassy, well, the Muslim world must accept that they have been taking an extreme position for decades now by refusing to even recognize Israel. They must answer for their own intolerance first.
Otherwise, the bully just keeps taking and taking and taking till you have nothing left.
I have heard so much noise in the international media about Europe’s treatment of Syrian refugees. I’ve heard criticism of how India has been treating the Rohingya people. Apparently, the free world is not being humanitarian enough.
However, most of Syria’s Arab neighbors refused to take any refugees whatsoever. And we never heard any criticism of that. Ironically, because the Muslim world is very open and very unapologetic in its refusal to perform humanitarian duties, their feet are never held to the fire. They just get a free pass.
This amounts to punishing good behavior. And rewarding bad behavior.
We all like the idea of human kindness and civility. But, ultimately, most relationships and above all, relationships between nations are transactional in nature.
You can’t ask for tolerance if you are supremely intolerant yourself. So far, the free world has been giving far too much ground to the Muslim world. Liberals are supposed to care about the rise of hate movements in democratic countries, but they don’t realize that this fundamentally unbalanced relationship is what drives the so-called “Islamophobia.”
So far, the Muslim world treats non-believers like dirt. Non-Muslims have pretty much no rights in the Muslim world. And when everybody else sees that, naturally there are a whole lot of people in the free world who start asking why the humanitarian concern should be coming from one side only. While this may not represent the absolute best in human nature, this is a substantial part of human nature. When a white Swedish person hears about how non-believers are treated in the Muslim world, s/he may well wonder how Muslim immigrants are going to treat him in his country the day they have the numbers on their side. This is valid fear. Not phobia.
That’s why Trump’s decision is so good for the Muslim World. The Muslim world is being held accountable and being asked to take responsibility for its actions. And treating people like adults, holding them accountable for their choices, is the highest form of respect for any human being.
They should start by recognizing the right of Israel to exist. They should accept that it is unreasonable, hateful and intolerant to permanently ban any person who has even set foot in Israel. Then, we can have a discussion over whether the US is going too far by moving its Embassy a couple of inches here or there.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.