As people concerned about the Israel-Arab conflict consider the US presidential elections, an important understanding of the two candidates can be found in their articulation of where a theoretical capital of a future Palestinian state would be located.
President Donald Trump announced the US road map to peace In January 2020 which included proposed contours for a two state-solution, the first such third-party proposal since the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. In regards to a Palestinian state, Trump said:
“The Palestinian people have grown distrustful after years of unfulfilled promises — so true — yet I know they are ready to escape their tragic past and realize a great destiny. But we must break free of yesterday’s failed approaches.
This map will more than double the Palestinian territory and provide a Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem where America will proudly open an embassy. (Applause.) No Palestinians or Israelis will be uprooted from their homes. (Applause.)”
The map highlighted areas within the eastern part of the city of Jerusalem which would become a “Palestinian capital.” The phrase “eastern Jerusalem” highlighted that the United States recognized not only that Jerusalem is a single city but that “East Jerusalem” has not existed for over fifty years; it had a brief turbulent life for nineteen years as an artifice of war in the 1948-1967 time period. Those dark years had barbed wire running through the heart of the city with the Jordanian Arabs controlling the eastern portion after they expelled all of the Jews. The Arabs would not let any Jew enter the Old City, even for prayer at Judaism holiest location.
Vice President Joe Biden sees Jerusalem quite differently as can be inferred by his recent comment in May 2020:
“I will reopen the US consulate in East Jerusalem, find a way to reopen the PLO’s diplomatic mission in Washington, and resume the decades-long economic and security assistance efforts to the Palestinians that the Trump Administration stopped.”
Biden referred to “East Jerusalem” as a proper noun as if such city exists and had any legitimacy. He spoke about it as if the United Nations had proposed splitting Jerusalem in 1947 and giving “East Jerusalem” to Palestinian Arabs. He conjured a world in which Israel hadn’t already divided the UN’s “Corpus Separatum” giving the Palestinian Authority the city of Bethlehem in 1996 while it held Jerusalem.
Biden spoke of pure fantasy. He might as well as have mentioned his Obama Administration’s permitting UN Security Council Resolution 2334 to pass which advanced a time-altering, human rights-scoffing principle that Jews living in their holiest city is illegal and an occupation of Palestinian territory.
Names highlight a particular narrative, and President Trump’s “eastern Jerusalem” and former Vice President Biden’s “East Jerusalem” underscore how each party understands the nature of the city. One party will deal with the Israel-Arab conflict on the basis of reality and the other in the construct of harmful fiction.
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