S.U. Israeli-Palestinian Expert: U.S. Embassy Opening in Jerusalem "Corrects Diplomatic Anomaly"

May 15, 2018

White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin unveil the entrance to the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
Credit Lior Mizrahi / Getty Images via NPR.org

A Syracuse University expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict says the militant group Hamas is trying to manipulate public opinion by aggravating the situation in Gaza and linking it to the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.  At least 60 Palestinian civilians died and more than 2,7oo were injured Monday after weeks of protests reached a flashpoint, prompting Israel to use lethal force.  Associate Political Science professor Miriam Elman says it’s a long-time strategy of Hamas to provoke a harsh response from Israel that leads to casualties.

"It's short of war.  Hamas is not looking for a war, which is why partly the reason why we haven't seen missile attacks.  This is a way to deflect the attention of the public on its own deficiencies of rule, and its own miseries toward Israel.  It's done that in the past, and it works."

Because, Elman says, the media and the public generally buy into it.  Setting aside Hamas and Gaza, the professor says moving the U.S. embassy and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel corrects a generations-long diplomatic anomaly.  She says the move never led to mass anti-U.S. riots as some had predicted. 

"All those fears that there would be negative repercussions on U.S. embassies throughout the middle east never happened.   Every state gets to decide what it's capital city is, and the U.S. has always put its embassies in those locations.  Israel was the only exception.  It's an absurd situation."

Plus, Elman says, there’s no reason to assume the move further stymies long-stalled peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.  

"Not moving the embassy, and not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital hasn't helped bring the sides closer, so why not try a different strategy?  There's nothing in what the Trump administration is doing that prevents a capital in east Jerusalem for Palestine."

In fact, she says there is an expectation that Israel will make that concession.  Elman says the challenge is getting the Palestinian authority back to the negotiating table because they’ve rejected the U.S. as a broker.  Syracuse-area activists gathered Tuesday evening in front of the federal building to show their support for Palestinians on the 70th anniversary of the Nakba.  That’s the day in 1948 when 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the Palestine war.