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levy alanBy ALAN LEVY

First, let me say I am a strong Zionist. I have lived and studied in Israel and  I love Israel with my very soul.


There is, in any deal, a give and take by both parties. It’s always important to judge if a positive move by one party is seen as a negative move by the other party when you are attempting to get a deal. If a particular action will only make a deal more difficult to obtain, then one must judge how much you really want that deal. Thus, the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by the U.S. is a heavy blow for the Palestinians and the Arab world to take.
Trump is supposed to be a great negotiator, but his move here is puzzling, since it seems like there was no strategic planning behind it. If one understands the art of making and obtaining concessions, Trump is getting nothing in moving in the direction he has taken. He has not moved the parties closer for settlement; rather, he has caused further polarization, particularly in the Palestinian camp. It is generally accepted by Middle East experts that Trump has moved the parties further part by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
The question is: Do Israel’s government and the U.S. government truly wish to obtain peace knowing they are acting in a fashion which is perceived by Palestinians as tremendously detrimental?
 How much violence will be caused by this dangerous move by the U.S.? How many people will be killed? Why weaken the framework of a potential agreement, making the gap between the parties even wider than it was?
Jerusalem is controlled by Israel. It is its capital in every way. Most ministries and agencies of the government are in Jerusalem, as well as the parliament of the country - the Knesset. This has been accepted as fact, if not in name, by most Palestinians and the Arab world for more than 50 years now, since 1967.  But - Jerusalem also has great meaning for the Islamic world, and more than 300,000 Muslims live there. (Read more at https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium)
This fact needs to be respected and acknowledged by Israel. There is no reason the Israeli government cannot state that it understands that East Jerusalem is on the table in any future peace  negotiations. It may even be a positive strategic tactic if done correctly – and diplomatically. There must be pressure put on the Palestinians from the U.S., Europe, and the Arab world to get going on negotiations. Israel is in a great position to be magnanimous in any negotiations. Being respectful and generous will only place Israel in a better position to move towards peace. The question in any negotiations is how motivated the parties are to reach a deal. So far, we have not seen much motivation by either party.
It’s important to understand that Muslim rage is not just translated through the kind of  violence we see on news reports. It also works its way through the courts, the Knesset, and a range of government bureaucracies and agencies. I did not realize this myself until Arab Israeli students I was teaching at Tel Aviv University’s graduate program in conflict resolution began to share various experiences they had living in Israeli society. It was a real eye opener!
This is not the place to get into the details of the many examples they gave me of how they were discriminated against by the Israeli legal system in particular and within Israeli society in general. As someone who felt some discrimination growing up in a non-Jewish section of North End Winnipeg, I knew what discrimination felt like. (I remember the first time, at the age of nine, I was called a dirty Jew!) Yet, what I had experienced was nothing compared with  the degree to which my students had experienced discrimination. When I got back to my apartment in Ramat Aviv I started to note each student’s example of discrimination. As I was writing,  I felt their hurt. It was awful! Israel was surely better than this!
I then began to teach my students democratic theory and how they they were at least nominally  full and equal citizens of Israel. Granted, one would hope that those students would not resort to violence, but instead work within the democratic institutions and structures that supposedly exist within Israeli society. However, Trump claiming that Jerusalem is solely an Israeli City will not help either Palestinians or Arab Israelis believe they can work within the system. Trump’s move will lead them to believe violence is the only alternative and that Jews are their enemies!
It’s important to keep in mind that “When the United Nations voted to divide British Mandatory Palestine in 1948, it intended two states to emerge: Israel and an Arab-Palestinian state. Jerusalem – with its mixed, Jewish-Arab population and an essential place in the history and belief systems of Christians, Muslims and Jews the world over – was not to belong to either state. Rather, the UN proposed that the city be administered by an international regime, until the time when Israelis and Palestinians could agree on an equitable and permanent arrangement for sharing it”. (Source: Haaretz https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.827782)
Jerusalem’s longest-serving mayor, the late Teddy Kollek (mayor from 1965 to 1993) believed the city should be proclaimed an international city run by the UN since, he argued it, belonged to Christian, Muslims, and Jews.
My view is simple, however, and it is the view of the majority of Israelis, as polls have shown time and time again that what they desire more than anything else is peace. Trump’s thoughtless understanding of the dynamics of the negotiations between the parties will not help achieve that goal.
It is the wise negotiator who realizes something that is of great advantage for his side but will be seen as a huge negative  by the enemy is not ultimately to his benefit to pursue.
I would love Jerusalem to be recognized as the capital of Israel by all countries of the world! But, like anything in life, one must weigh the costs to having that become more than what it had been until Trump’s announcement: something we could pay lip service to without pushing it forward on the agenda. There are many in Israel who understand that we are about to pay a huge cost for what might initally seem wonderful. As my late father used to say, “If it looks too good - it is.”
As one of the founding fathers of Israel (whom I had the great pleasure to know) Shimon Peres argued: When you have two alternatives, the first thing you have to do is to look for the third that you didn’t think about - that doesn’t exist, to obtain success!
Alan Levy
Alan Levy is an Associate Professor at Brandon University and a mediator and arbitrator. He is currently doing research on whistleblowing law in Canada as compared with other Western countries. He  is currently on leave Brandon University and is based in Winnipeg.