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Netanyahu Takes Victory Lap Ahead Of U.S. Recognition Of Jerusalem

December 6, 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at The Jerusalem Post Conference in Jerusalem on December 6, 2017
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Israeli premier outlines the factors contributing to the emergence of the context in which the White House decision is taking place

The media was left scratching its collective head following Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s last-minute appearance at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday; this, just hours ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s anticipated recognition of the city as Israel’s capital, a move that would upend decades of American foreign policy despite near-universal opposition by the international community.

However, to the audience’s disappointment, the Israeli premier stayed completely mum on the subject, instead taking what could be construed as a victory lap prior to one of the most momentous events in the Jewish state’s brief, albeit eventful, history.

Walking back and forth across a prop-filled stage, working the crowd with a sly smirk etched across his face, an enthusiastic Netanyahu made his point more subtly, outlining the mitigating factors leading to the emergence of the context in which the White House decision is taking place.

“Bibi,” as he is causally known, described Israel as being at the forefront of global innovation—highlighting its prowess in the fields of technology, agriculture, security, among others—a reality that has enabled the government to greatly expand the scope of its influence by forging ties with some 140 countries, including many in the Arab-Islamic World.

Moreover, the premier insisted, nations are increasingly drawn to Israel because, in his words, the Jewish state’s counter-terrorism expertise is “second to none.” Be it countries in Europe, Africa or Asia, Israel is making inroads each and every day as the scourge of terrorism increasingly rears its ugly head from Brussels to Bamako to Manilla.

In the Middle East, in particular, Israel and its neighbors share a common enemy in ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism. The Jewish state and its Sunni neighbors also share a goal of curbing Shiite Iran’s expansionism and potential nuclearization. The convergence of these interests, Netanyahu stressed, has opened the door to cooperative opportunities that previously were unthinkable, which, in turn, has created a new diplomatic playing field.

Hence, Netanyahu’s conclusion that Israel is deeply needed and, in fact, is becoming an indispensable partner to more and more countries. As such, the implicit message conveyed is that the Trump administration feels confident enough to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without fear of turning the Jewish state into the proverbial “international pariah.”

By contrast, doing so will propel it forward, especially as regards burgeoning ties with regional states, even as they publicly denounce the prospective embassy move to save face domestically.

For example, Sulaiman Al-Qunaibi, a Saudi Political Analyst told The Media Line that “everyone [in the Arab world] condemns this irresponsible act, which will ignite violence.” Moeen Al-Taher, a Jordanian Commentator contended to The Media Line that “there will be serious and dangerous consequence to this move in the short-term. Also,” he added, “I wonder how the Palestinians will deal with this—will they ever trust the Americans again?”

But the dynamics evolving behind the scenes have major implications including on the peace process with the Palestinians, with multiple reports suggesting that President Trump is currently devising parameters for a potential deal that deviates significantly from past initiatives. In this respect, a widely cited New York Times piece claimed that the proposal will only offer the Palestinians limited sovereignty in isolated parts of the West Bank, without east Jerusalem as its capital. The so-called ‘right of return’ for Palestinian families who fled their homes in 1948 will be nixed, while Gaza may be expanded into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, thereby creating an entity that is economically viable over the long-term.

The Palestinian Authority has said that any such eventuality will effectively constitute a “declaration of war,” with Nabil Shaath, a close adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, contending to The Media Line that “the decision is completely biased towards Israel and contravenes international law.

“Trump’s move,” he warned, “will kill any potential for talks and effectively end America’s longstanding role as honest broker between the sides.”

Similarly, Mahmoud Al-Habash, the Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs, told The Media Line that the prospective embassy relocation is a “dangerous and foolish project that will lead to an explosion in the region.”

But with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman apparently on-side with the plan and purportedly threatening Abbas to play game or be deposed, there may be little the Palestinians can do.

And so Netanyahu came, saw and conquered the Conference, his grin indicative of a newfound confidence born out of a changing reality that stands to, for the first time in 2,000 years, lead to recognition of what the Israeli premier has always maintained is the Jewish people’s eternal capital.

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