But the devil is in the detail, and the details paint a different picture from the one the two leaders wish to paint. To understand that, we should carefully read Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments on the issue in a meeting with Palestinian President Abbas last week. “With this decision,” he said, "Israel was rewarded for all the terrorist activities it has carried out. East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” East Jerusalem, he said. In other words, Jerusalem is being divided.
Trump didn’t talk about a complete Jerusalem, and he didn’t even define the meaning of Jerusalem. He left this “detail” to the parties. He announced the United States’ recognition of “Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital, and said in the same breath that the embassy would not be moved to the Israeli capital just yet because it required planning and building. That’s a pretty lame excuse. A symbolic office could have been organized within two days. I personally know someone who is willing to rent out such an office to the American president.
That way, Trump bought time ahead of the next semi-annual “will he or will he not move the embassy?” ceremony, and left the option of Jerusalem’s division open. In fact, he actually pushed for its division, between the Arab neighborhoods surrounding it and the western city. Abbas, after all, isn’t claiming that the western city belongs to him, to Palestine. He is saying “Jerusalem,” just like Netanyahu. And they both know that the question “what is Jerusalem?” is similar to the question “who is a Jew?”—there are a lot of opinions on the matter.
Trump’s move, therefore, is a bold move—either foolish or brilliant—which creates a different dynamic in the Middle East, without actually leading to a change in his views.
Trump, as a businessman, probably thinks that the elephant in the room must be dealt with, rather than leaving Jerusalem to the end. In other words, Jerusalem first. By doing so, he basically started a process to divide the city and create two capitals—an Israeli one and a Palestinian one. Both are Jerusalem both are holy.
So when the festivals die down, we’ll all realize that Trump started the process ahead of Jerusalem’s division. Let’s see where we go from here.
Benny Cohen is a strategic advisor and partner in the Rimon Cohen & Co. PR firm who served as spokesperson for former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.