There are a lot of diplomatic I-told-you-so’s rocketing into Washington from around the world right now. Critics of President Donald Trump’s move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Monday are in high dudgeon. As they warned, the Palestinians reacted violently to the move. Thousands massed on the edges of the Gaza Strip to protest the American move, and economic hardships in Gaza.
We, too, cautioned last year that moving the embassy, though mainly symbolic, would likely provoke Palestinian ire. What happened Monday, though, is more disturbing than that.
According to The New York Times, “loudspeakers on minarets urged Palestinians to rush the fence bordering Israel, where they were met by army snipers.” The Washington Post reports that “organizers urged demonstrators to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them.”
Which suggests that Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza, incited protesters to dash toward Israeli military positions, likely knowing that many would be killed. Hamas leaders had to know that the carnage would ignite an international backlash against Israel and the U.S.
If Palestinian leaders want to know who is responsible for the deaths this week, they should glance in the mirror.
That said, let’s also note that many of the demonstrators were peaceful. They came to protest what they call the nakba, or catastrophe: the creation of the state of Israel 70 years ago. They came to reassert their “right of return” to what is now Israel. They came to express their despair — as generations of Palestinians have. And they came to denounce the U.S. embassy switch.
But let’s be clear: Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem doesn’t preclude anything in an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. The fate of Jerusalem has always been part of negotiations between the sides, if and when they start speaking again.
A Palestinian state is not foreordained, however. Early in his term, President Trump shook up the Middle East status quo by declaring that he would not insist on the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a peace accord.
Leaders of the Palestinians have a choice: They can keep sending their young people to their deaths.
Or they can turn from violent confrontation to constructive negotiation. They can resume their path toward a Palestinian state.
Even as we write that sentence — expressing the hope for a two-state solution that we’ve repeated over and over — it seems more far-fetched than ever. The reality on the ground is that nothing will change until Palestinian leaders stop inciting violence and start telling their people the truth: Palestinians can have a state. But not until they accept that the Israel they loathe is in the neighborhood to stay.
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