In a December 1 report in the Wall Street Journal, Rory Jones devoted almost an entire article to the Palestinian perspective, and all but ignored the Israeli perspective. (“As U.S. Mulls Moving Embassy to Jerusalem, Palestinians Feel Helpless.”) In addition, a December 5 piece by Jones and two other Journal reporters erroneously refers to the possibility that the US may “declare” Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. (“Foreign Officials Say Trump’s Plan for Jerusalem Is at Odds with Peace Efforts.”)
Jones’s December 1 report discussed the speculation over the possibility that the White House may move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. Jones provided quotes from two separate individuals who provided the Palestinian perspective, Mahdi Hejazi, 71 years old and Ahmed Azzam, 35. Readers also learned that “frustrated Palestinians concede they have few options to counter the controversial move;” that “Palestinians say the White House plan, still under discussion, has deepened skepticism that this U.S. administration can serve as an impartial broker to the Middle East peace process;” and that “hopes for a path to Palestinian statehood in the near term appear extremely dim.” Jones also repeated uncritically that, “Palestinian officials have questioned whether two Orthodox Jews, in addition toMr. Trump’s pro-settlement Jewish ambassador, David Friedman, can credibly lead such an effort.”
Jones provided no quotes from ordinary Jewish Israelis. As we’ve seen in news outlets before, he severely downplayed the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. The Israeli perspective is limited in his report to the assertion that, “many Israelis consider Jerusalem the country’s eternal and undivided capital but that notion isn’t recognized by the international community.”
In fact, according to a recent poll, 67 percent of Israelis – a clear majority – oppose relinquishing any part of Jerusalem’s old city. The only time in the city’s history that it was divided was after Jordan conquered and, subsequently, illegally annexed the eastern section, from 1948-1967. King David established Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish Kingdom in 1004 BCE. Other than the 19 years that it was controlled by Jordan, Jews have lived in eastern Jerusalem continuously since the time of King David.
In contrast, there has never been Palestinian sovereignty over any part of the city – a detail Jones conspicuously omits.
There are also notable omissions in the brief background that Jones provides:
Palestinians have waged two uprisings against Israeli control since the late 1980s, with hundreds of deaths on both sides. Yet the Palestinians also have become deeply divided among themselves over how to pursue peace with the Israelis.
The Palestinian Authority, led by the Fatah party, and the Islamist movement Hamas have been negotiating for weeks over the terms of a reconciliation agreement. The authority hopes to return to control in the Gaza Strip but the process stalled this week over security and other arrangements.
Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday said the major Palestinian factions would need to make peace with each other before embarking on a U.S.-brokered peace.
Jones neglects to mention three Israeli offers to resolve the conflict that were rejected by the Palestinians, one of which would have provided for joint Israeli, Palestinian, US, Saudi and Jordanian control over Jerusalem’s holy sites.
Jones concludes his December 1 article by telling readers that the status of Jerusalem and its holy sites is “a highly combustible issue,” and that “in July, Israel’s installation of metal detectors at one of the city’s holiest sites triggered deadly violence.” Here, Jones has inverted cause and effect. His next sentence reveals that “Israel installed the detectors at the entrance to the site after Arab gunmen killed two Israeli policemen there.” It was deadly violence that triggered installation of metal detectors, not metal detectors that triggered deadly violence.
The Journal‘s December 5 report focuses primarily on European and Arab responses to Trump’s decision not to meet the December 4 deadline to execute a waiver of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act. In it, Jones and his colleagues Felicia Schwartz and Dion Nissenbaum again whitewash history in their brief “background” of the conflict:
Jerusalem was divided in 1948 when Israel was founded, with Israel controlling the western parts of the city and Jordan controlling the eastern parts, including the Old City and its sacred sites for Muslims, Jews and Christians. Israel seized control of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and eventually annexed the occupied parts of the city—something most of the international community refuses to recognize.
Jerusalem did not spontaneously divide in 1948. It was divided by war, after five Arab armies attacked the newly reconstituted Jewish state. The resulting 1949 armistice lines were never internationally recognized, and Jordan ethnically cleansed the Jewish population from the section of the city that it controlled. Israel was again attacked by Jordan in 1967 (after Israel’s preemptive attack on Egypt), and it was this attack that lead to the reunification of the city.
Even worse, Jones, Schwartz and Nissenbaum seem to ignore Israeli sovereignty all together, referring repeatedly to the possibility that the US may “declare” Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. For example, in the second paragraph, they write, “Arab leaders across the Middle East are making last-ditch appeals to the U.S. not to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.”
Of course, no US President has the ability to “declare” a capital city of any other country. The only things that a US President, or any other world leader, may do, is recognize a capital city or decline to do so. Regardless of any declaration made by any world leader, Jerusalem is the seat of the Israeli government and, therefore, by definition, the country’s capital.
This article was written prior to an expected announcement by the Trump administration concerning Jerusalem.