Almost two weeks ago, the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. At the time, I applauded the move in principle though I expressed prudential concerns about the potential for a violent reaction. I had the strange experience of applauding President Trump’s speech, which plainly was written by people who knew their stuff and which—if people bothered to read it—was much more nuanced than press reports indicated. In summary, the President said that the United States was recognizing the reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital but was not making any assertions about the borders of Jerusalem. He called for maintenance of the status quo at the Temple Mount, and he referred to the holy site by its Arabic name, the Haram al-Sharif. So despite all the over-the-top press, it seemed to me that the change in the US position should only really be concerning to people who feel strongly that the original idea of the 1947 partition plan, which would have treated all of Jerusalem (east and west) and its environs as a corpus separatum not subject to any state’s sovereignty. There might be such people, but none of the parties themselves take this view, which seems to me an anachronism. If that’s not your view, I didn’t see how it was reasonable to oppose what the President said, unless you think that Israel has no claim to West Jerusalem, the portion of the city to the west of the Green Line (the border after the war that ensued when the Arab states rejected the partition plan and invaded what was to become the State of Israel).
Today, I want to look at what’s happened regarding Jerusalem since: the good, the bad, and the ugly.