152 thoughts on “And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green?

  1. Ok, I’ll be civil but i have throw down with……. I’ve always really liked the Emerson, Lake and Palmer version of Jerusalem.

    Other than that, this seems like a move with no upside to moving towards long term peace and co-existence and will only add more tinder to an already inflamed region. I’m not even sure what a good rationale is for this.

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    • He promised he’d do it, the physical move to actually do it will take years, over all it’s potentially a pretty easy to fulfill promise and he doesn’t give a rip what the regional interests on the subject will think of it beyond Israel.

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      • Oh yeah his campaign promises. That is a good one.

        Just think how poor Jared, our point man on making the one true and eternal peace in the area feels about this. All our allies don’t’ like it and our opponents are thrilled about it. Well of course the hard line peeps in Israel are down with this. I’m sure Sheldon Adelson and Dershowitz are thrilled.

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  2. First thought: Holy crap.
    Second thought: Holy crap!
    Third thought: okay, presidential candidates will never again be able to pander by saying “oh, I’ll totally acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”.
    Fourth thought: I wonder when the shooting war starts…

    And then I checked twitter.

    Holy crap.

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      • Trump excels at the whole “say something that gets your opponent to say something REALLY OVER THE LINE” and forcing people to pick.

        “The violence that results from Trump doing this is on his hands!” will, inevitably, lead to the question “were the people who committed the violence moral agents?” and then we’re off to the races.

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      • This though actually occurred to me, only slightly differently. Do you think he may be trying to provoke a terrorist attack? Or otherwise inflame Muslims? He has already tried to leverage anything resembling a terrorist attack by a Muslim for his political advantage. I wouldn’t put it past him to knowingly engage in acts or policies that he knows are likely to increase the odds of an attack, so he can come back with, “See? This is why we need a wall/ban/Merry Christmas!”

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            • If only we were wrong…

              “We’re prepared for derailment — temporary I hope. Pretty sure it will be temporary,” said a senior White House official, who acknowledged that the President’s peace team has not spoken with furious Palestinian officials since the Trump’s announcement.

              That “derailment” was a cost the White House was prepared to accept to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise.”

              From CNN.

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              • I heard this on the way home. (No transcript yet, it seems.)

                Mary Louise Kelly pointed out that Hamas called for “Days of Rage” and Dr. Husam Zomlot pointed out that he and his were calling for peaceful protests *ONLY*. (Listen to the whole thing but the part I’m talking about here starts around 3:35.)

                I’m hoping that the Palestinian leadership has learned a lot of the lessons from the 2nd Intifada. Violence ain’t gonna work this time around.

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                    • My largely uninformed guess is that we’ll see someone(s) doing something(s) that are violent and which they or others say is in response to the announcement and which may well actually be in response to the announcement. What I don’t think we’ll see… in the immediate future, at least… is any sort of grand organized violence.

                      What this means for the actual unfolding of the Mid-East negotiations and the long term ramifications of that… I won’t guess.

                      But now that we know the administration knew this would be a “derailment” and went ahead with it anyway… I’d really like to know their cost-benefit analysis of the decision.

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                      • But now that we know the administration knew this would be a “derailment” and went ahead with it anyway… I’d really like to know their cost-benefit analysis of the decision.

                        If it wasn’t Trump just doing things with his “gut” (which is actually the way to bet)…

                        There was no chance for peace to begin with, so there is no real downside for derailing the “peace process”. It was going to burn anyway, but this way Trump gets points for starting the fire (success), rather than for failing to “create peace”.

                        Also if you believe the Pals need to come to terms with losing, then *maybe* this is a step in the right direction.

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                        • Which is worth how many deaths?

                          I’m not naive. I won’t pretend that Presidents — all Presidents — have made decisions in which they had to say, “I’ll accept dead bodies as the cost of pursuing this direction.” And I’d bet my life that every President — whether loved or hated, good or bad — had made decisions that’d make most of us cringe. So I’m not pretending Trump is unique in this regard.

                          But to make a symbolic gesture (and I’m curious if he was focusing on signaling more to his base or to Israel) that you KNOW would derail the peace process and then to ADMIT that you KNEW that… that feels a little different… at least based on my limited historical knowledge.

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                          • Which is worth how many deaths?

                            (Channelling Trump) What is this “other people” concept?

                            But to make a symbolic gesture (and I’m curious if he was focusing on signaling more to his base or to Israel)

                            His base.

                            that you KNOW would derail the peace process

                            There is no “peace process”. The two sides are too far apart. We’re just killing time until all the refugees die and we finally face up to the fact that the descendant of a refugee isn’t a refugee, and it was always a bad idea to have large groups of people put their lives on hold while they wait for Israel to be destroyed so they can go back “home”.

                            If we had treated the European refugees the same way after Stalin moved borders around, we’d have tens of millions of people waiting for Russia to be destroyed.

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                            • It would have been impossible to treat the Palestinians like European DP persons though. The other Arab countries needed the Palestinians as permanent refugees so they could have an albatross to hang around Israel’s neck. Western countries weren’t going to take in hundreds of thousands of people seen as non-white at the time, especially if they were Muslim. The Western countries didn’t even want Jewish immigrants after the full horror of the Holocaust was known.

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                        • Also if you believe the Pals need to come to terms with losing

                          150 years after losing, the Confederate South is still agitating and litigating the war, still unwilling to come to terms with losing.

                          What makes anyone think the Palestinians are going to just shrug and say, “ahh, screw it, lets call ourselves Israelis, and forget the whole thing”?

                          Nothing is more combustible than ethnic triumphalism. It never dies, and even after decades, or centuries of suppression, can flare up in insanely violent ways.

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                          • Would it be churlish to point out that there’s considerable overlap between people who think the Palestinians need to accept that they lost with no recompense whatsoever, and people who cling to various repulsive facets of the Lost Cause myth?

                            Not least among them the President responsible for making this decision?

                            If so, permit me to be churlish.

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                          • 150 years after losing, the Confederate South is still agitating and litigating the war, still unwilling to come to terms with losing.

                            Exactly this. IMHO the South is a lot closer to becoming “normal” states since we stopped honoring their “feelings” about how they’re supposed to treat their minorities and we just told them to get over it.

                            The clock didn’t start ticking until the 1960’s, and after that you need to wait for everyone who grew up in the old method to die, so in only another 40 years or so the whole issue will be done.

                            What makes anyone think the Palestinians are going to just shrug and say, “ahh, screw it, lets call ourselves Israelis, and forget the whole thing”?

                            They’re clearly not. However this also means the idea of a “peace process” is something of a non-starter. The Palestinians are still trying to refight the war of 1948, the refugee camps were created to prevent the clock from ticking towards peace and in that they’ve been successful.

                            The clock starts ticking after the refugee camps are closed, boarders are fixed, the occupation ends, and so on.

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                        • Also if you believe the Pals need to come to terms with losing, then *maybe* this is a step in the right direction.

                          I think a lot of Palestinians (not Pals, btw, they have a name) will be fine with losing, if only someone would specify what losing is.

                          From Westphalia to Potsdam, or even to the Vietnam War, losing meant the victor took the territory and the people in it. But the Israelis (not the Isris) have even less interest in coming to terms with winning than the Palestinians have in losing.

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                          • The 2000 Camp David Summit is usually thrown around as a peace deal that might have worked, were it not for Arafat.

                            That was defended for a long time by the left, but we don’t know how many people defend that deal because they’re the types who defend everything that Bill Clinton ever touched rather than whether they’re defending the deal as being a good deal in and of itself.

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                          • I think a lot of Palestinians (not Pals, btw, they have a name)

                            A bad habit of mine stemming from poor spelling skills.

                            But the Israelis (not the Isris) have even less interest in coming to terms with winning than the Palestinians have in losing.

                            When I think about what peace would look like in this conflict, it seems to me that the Palestinians are further away than the Israelis (assuming the solution isn’t ‘Israel is destroyed’).

                            Israel would need to stand up to the settlers (they’ve done that on occasion), and they’d need to end the occupation, fix borders (losing some of Jerusalem), and accept the Palestinians as a normal country.

                            To me it seems like this would be painful for Israel but doable, thus the peace offer of 2000.

                            The Palestinians would need to accept Israel as a country. This would mean telling the refugees they put their lives on hold for 50-70 years for nothing. They’d need to face that they’d have been better off accepting one of the earlier peace agreements. They’d need to get a monopoly on the use of force, i.e. control the various people who still want to destroy Israel. The ‘destroy Israel’ crowd has an armed faction who have written Genocide into their charter and who are popular enough to win elections.

                            That seems like it puts them further away from peace. For example the refugees exist only as a way to prolong the conflict. Keeping them in camps makes no sense if the goal is Israel-as-a-normal-country. But the popular party line is Israel-will-be-destroyed and even suggesting otherwise can be fatal.

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                            • I don’t disagree with your summary. I disagree with one of your premises:

                              I no longer believe Israel will accept the two states solution.

                              I don’t think many people, (West Bank) Palestinians, other Arabs, or Israelis, care much about Gaza, though many people do care about Hamas.

                              But I see zero willingness of Israel to ever give back ‘Judea and Samaria’. Not any more. Camp Davis was a fluke and, my thoughts today, I doubt Israel would have actually implemented it, if Arafat had agreed to it.

                              Hence the 50 year impasse we are seeing. There’s no way to disentangle the land from the people. A permanent military occupation that keeps the people under control, and de facto (facts on the ground) annexation acre by acre.

                              I won’t say there’s a Protocols of Zion cabal that decided this strategy years ago, but I see it being implemented, even if just because, faute de mieux, no one in Israel can think of something else.

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                              • @j_a I won’t say there’s a Protocols of Zion cabal that decided this strategy years ago

                                To be really really clear, and with my moderator hat on, you certainly will not say that. And I’d prefer you don’t make tongue-in-cheek references to it either, which is what I am charitably assuming you’re doing here.

                                Joking about that kind of antisemitic filth on a sure-to-be-fraught thread about Israel and Palestine is a bad idea.

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                              • I think its more accurate to say that the Israeli Right won the political game regard the West Bank because the Israeli Center lost faith in what the Israeli Left was advocating during the Oslo years and Second Intifidada. As I pointed out bellow, the promise was land for peace. The Israeli Center believes Israel tried its best to comply with Oslo and negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians under Rabin, Barak, Sharon, and Olmert. In return they got suicide bombers, rocket barrages, and Palestinian leadership promoting a no compromise with Israel ever among the populace. The Israeli Center saw this as the Palestinians making the Israeli Right’s point on the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims never accepting Israel and stopped trusting in the peace process.

                                The political chaos in the Arab world after the Arab spring and growing Islamism doesn’t exactly give Israel reasons to negotiate with the Palestinians either. Most of them believe that Palestinian leadership can not and will not do anything to prevent terrorism in Israel proper.

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                      • Here’s a list of Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel from 2017.

                        My expectation is that there will be a lot of one-offs like the above plus a handful of suicide bombings and the “hey, this is only one guy!” arguments will start to feel tired around the sixth or seventh time that someone finds themselves pointing out that this doesn’t indicate organization since it’s just one guy.

                        But, hey. Maybe there won’t be appreciable rocket attacks or suicide bombings. Let’s hope.

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                        • FWIW, by “organized”… I meant military action or announced terrorist campaigns or stuff like that.

                          There are signals. There is noise. Those things would be signals and anyone claiming they were noise, I’d argue against.

                          The things you describe? I’d be hard pressed to determine if they were signals or noise.

                          I’m not certain we’ll see obvious signals.

                          I think the noise will change and we’ll argue if there are signals there are not.

                          I think people will die. I think folks angry about this decision will kill people because of it. They will be wrong to do so.

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                          • FWIW, by “organized”… I meant military action or announced terrorist campaigns or stuff like that.

                            I’m pretty sure we won’t have anything like that.

                            I mean, unless there is violence as part of Hamas’s “Days of Rage”. That might count. But let’s assume that it wouldn’t.

                            I’m pretty sure we won’t have anything like that.

                            It’s most likely that there will be one-offs and it will be perfectly possible to point out that there is a fairly high baseline of violence in the first place and this suicide bombing or that shelling isn’t indicative of anything (and, besides, it’s Trump’s fault for changing the capital).

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    • From the article:

      The president said the decision to recognize Jerusalem should not be construed as the United States taking a position on whether, or how, the city might ultimately be shared. But he offered little solace to the Palestinians, making no mention of their long-held hopes for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state.

      Which leaves wiggle room for a repurposing of the Temple Mount.

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      • This is one of those things I have never understood. Jordan lost their half of the city in 1967 through their own bad decision-making. Seems like the spoils go to the victors. And if Trump is leaving room for the Palestinians to have part of Jerusalem for themselves someday…that actually seems generous.

        So I guess I’m a hawk on this issue…?

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        • I believe international law says that the victors can’t take whatever they want fwiw. If we and they want the Palestinians to peacefully co-exist with Israel that suggests they need to get something other than the scraps the victors decide to throw them.

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          • Well, at least they have obligations if they do. The UN, most countries including the US, and the top courts in Israel have all said that Israel is an “occupying power” with those obligations. The executive authority in Israel has simply ignored those opinions and said it’s something different — not occupied but also not sovereign.

            I have said before and will continue to say that I am glad that I am not a young politician in Israel.

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          • If we and they want the Palestinians to peacefully co-exist with Israel that suggests they need to get something other than the scraps the victors decide to throw them.

            I think the Pals are still stuck deciding whether or not the Israelis get a country.

            And I think Israel figured out “peaceful co-existence” will be a century or three off.

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            • Oh they are nowhere close to living together. But if that is the long term goal then you build towards that with short term actions. The P’s aren’t going to stop looking to Jerusalem for their capital. If it’s 100 years from now they will stop look for that.

              Even leaving the P’s aside this matters a lot to the other Arab countries. Poking a stick in the eye of all of them, including our friends has costs.

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              • From the average Israeli point of view, and I’m not saying this is necessarily accurate but its how they perceive it, Israel ended up doing all the big and small moves and the Palestinians under Arafat, Abbas, and Hamas refuse to concede even the most minor point. Not even a slight rhetoric change. Most Israelis believe that they tried to comply with Oslo and negotiate with the Palestinians in good faith under Barak and Olmert or even do bold experiments like entirely withdraw from Gaza and South Lebanon under Sharon. What they got in return were suicide bombers and rocket barrages because Hamas and Hizbollah and to a lesser extent Fatah could not resist the final push and destroy Israel and send all the Jews back “home.”

                So Israelis basically don’t trust the Palestinians or their leaders at all at this point and don’t trust other Arab countries either. They want them to take the initiative for once.

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                • They want them to take the initiative for once.

                  Big picture, the Arabs have two, diametrically opposed ideas on how to go forward.

                  Way #1 : Israel/Palestine are both accepted as normal countries, with boundaries more or less where they are with some minor exchanges.

                  This involves serious, painful concessions for the Palestinians. The refugees are screwed and have to be told they put their lives on hold for 50-70 years for no good reason. The Pals accept the various wars they’ve fought and peace deals they’ve walked away from have made things worse for themselves. And they’re going to have to control the men with guns who want to Way #2.

                  Way #2 : Israel is destroyed by war, genocide, or forcing their population to leave via low level terrorism.

                  This is popular enough that groups proclaiming it can get elected, and it attracts the people with guns.

                  For the Palestinians to “take the initiative” they probably need to commit to Way #1, and just stepping on that path would be really really painful.

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          • My (very limited) understanding is that Israel supported the UN partition plan in 1948, then the surrounding countries attacked them, after which they STILL agreed to an Arab state. It was only after the 1967 war that they took the territory and even then they have (at times) still worked towards an independent Palestine. I guess it just feels like they have done more compromising historically.

            And I know I am grossly simplifying and overlooking a lot of troubling Israeli behavior like the settlements in the disputed territory, etc. I will also freely admit I am not very impartial here. Being raised Catholic I have always felt like the Jewish people were first cousins and my opinions usually reflect that.

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        • So I guess I’m a hawk on this issue…?

          Go a level deeper on the details. If East Jerusalem is now part of Israel, what do you do about the people who were living there at the time of the change, and their descendants? Are they now Israeli citizens? Refugees? Some weird sort of second-class citizen? Is there a path to full citizenship? Do they maintain property ownership?

          My perception of European history is that the conquering power generally just said something like, “They’re not French any more, they’re Germans.” Of course, Israel faces demographic problems if they try that.

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          • I had to look this up:

            “Israel allowed only the inhabitants of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights to receive full Israeli citizenship, applying its law, administration and jurisdiction to these territories in 1967 and 1981, respectively. The vast majority of the populations in both territories declined to take citizenship.”

            and

            “On July 2, the Israeli government announced that it would allow the return of those 1967 refugees who desired to do so, but no later than August 10, later extended to September 13. The Jordanian authorities probably pressured many of the refugees, who constituted an enormous burden, to sign up to return. In practice only 14,000 of the 120,000 who applied were allowed by Israel back into the West Bank by the beginning of September. After that, only a trickle of “special cases” were allowed back, perhaps 3,000 in all.”

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  3. As a supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, I don’t see any upside to this. The only people pleased by this decision are hardline right-wing Jews and/or the right-wing Evangelical voters who seem to think Israel fulfills biblical prophecy for the Book of Revelations. So people who want a Holy War basically. Nothing about this decision is going to decrease tensions in a situation that is getting more and more heated.

    Plus all the other issues going on the Middle East including the Saudi starvation of Yemen.

    The other news from the Press conference is that Trump was apparently slurring his words:

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2017/12/didnt-sound-good#disqus_thread

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  4. I studiously avoid commenting on any Israel/ Palestinian threads since I don’t really have either a dog in the fight or an informed opinion or clever solution.

    But I look at this development as part of an overall ominous trend in the region, where the loudest angriest voices are being enabled and empowered. With each turn of the screw in Syria, Iran, Egypt, Libya, and now the Saudi Kingdom, the states seem more unstable, more prone to war or coup or revolution.

    The governing logic of the United States since WWII was that with our military, economic, and diplomatic muscle we could defend Israel and keep the peace in the region and tell the Muslim nations to go pound sand if need be.

    As we become a declining power, I’m not sure that is a realistic strategy any more.

    Or maybe I should just stop reading my book about WWI.

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    • Chip Daniels:
      The governing logic of the United States since WWII was that with our military, economic, and diplomatic muscle we could defend Israel and keep the peace in the region and tell the Muslim nations to go pound sand if need be.

      The security guarantee that the US provides the Israel, insofar as it actually exists, is much weaker than that provided to Japan, South Korea, or any NATO country.

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  5. Without discounting the complexities in middle east politics, and the diplomatic dangers in making truthful statements, isn’t Jerusalem the actual location of the highest offices from which the State of Israel is governed? Should we really be flipping out trying to understand why someone made a true statement (even when it’s someone who has no great love for the truth)?

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    • Here’s a fun story from June of *THIS* year.

      The US Senate, in a vote of 90-0, passed a resolution reaffirming the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (here’s a wiki summary if you don’t want to slog through the law itself).

      (“A *NON-BINDING* resolution!” “Please point exactly to where I said that it was a binding resolution!” “You called it a resolution and that implies that it was binding and this resolution was non-binding! THAT IS A VERY IMPORTANT RHETORICAL POINT!” “Okay. It was a non-binding resolution reaffirming a law they passed 22 years before.” “That’s better!”)

      This law was passed back in 1995 intended to be completed (fulfilled? over and done with?) by 1999. Since then, however, the president has signed a waiver every year or so saying “yeah, we still totally mean this, we’re just going to do this next year instead”.

      The bill they passed in June was a resolution (“A NON-BINDING RESOLUTION!” “I don’t see why that’s such an important thing to point out…”) re-affirming that, seriously, they still totally mean to get around to this.

      And, this year, Trump said “yeah, I’m not going to sign the waiver”.

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  6. Some, like Dershowitz, think this is a counterpunch for Obama apparently pimping UN Resolution 2334 in December of 2016. Like him or not, Trump can sit at a high stakes table.

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  7. None of this matters a whit. The demographics will decide this issue.

    The only populations in the area on the increase are the muslims and orthodox jews. The more moderate left side of Israeli politics are not reproducing enough to have a long term effect. When one of these populations attains enough numbers, they’ll “push” the other out.

    Feel free to interpret “push” in any form you wish. Forced expulsion, genocide, camps, terror campaign, voting, etc.

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    • Yes.

      Everyone is following the only alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution, right?

      It’s literally one or the other. One state, or two states.(1)

      In a one-state solution, Israel, assuming it stayed a modern democracy, loses. If everyone in that area can vote, including the previously-Palestinian people, they will very quickly vote themselves into not being a Jewish state, and, hell, probably change their name while they’re at it.

      This might, or might not, work out well for the region and the world (One can see them ending up something like Turkey.), but it sure as hell is not going to work out well for the current Israeli government, or the idea of a Jewish state.

      The _other_ sort of one-state solution involves genocide, or at least some sort of apartheid, where the current Israel government wings by turning hard right and ensures that previous-Palestinians cannot vote in some manner. You know, the sort of thing we generally call fascism.

      This is why the Israeli hard-right is getting more and more crazy. They literally have no solution, and it’s becoming obvious. They have taken a position they cannot have an independent Palestine and…next…something something…oh, not enough votes, need to piss of the Palestine again…something something…national security…profit? There is no logical next thing to do under their ‘plan’…countries cannot just claim territory and make everyone already there leave. Well, they _can_, but, uh, it’s a really obvious war crime, and would literally turn into a war.

      The hard right has, for decades, made the situation worse, because at some point Palestines really are just going to say, ‘Okay, you win, this is Israel. All of it. Palestine doesn’t exist… Now, where are the ballots, time for us to vote as Israeli citizens! First thing to vote for is…changing the name of this country to Palestine.’

      1) I believe there is some hypothetical three-state solution where Gaza and the West Bank are different states, but that is functionally identical to two states for the purpose of this.

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      • Well, they _can_, but, uh, it’s a really obvious war crime, and would literally turn into a war.

        Other way around. Israel waits for a nasty war big and bad enough that they “need” to force everyone to move. 1948 all over again.

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      • Which is why it appears to me that the very notion of a “Jewish state” was always going to blow up someday.
        Both the Palestinians and Israelis are making a “blood and soil” type of argument as to who has rightful claim over the land, and those sorts of arguments never have a happy ending.

        If I force myself to be optimistic I look to the Irish Troubles, which these discussions often resemble.

        I recall hearing Alexander Cockburn open a rant describing an atrocity by British troops slaughtering scores of Irish women and children, and I was horrified, thinking maybe I missed something in the papers.
        Turns out, by and by, he was talking about a battle which had happened like 400 years previously. But his rage was fresh and hot, like it was yesterday and to his own family.
        I remember thinking how impossible any peace was, when people had such a long list of grievances, legitimate to be sure, but neverending and kept alive generation to generation.
        Both sides at the time kept talking in maximalist terms, like somehow the other side would magically vanish, or slink off into the shadows or something.

        But eventually they did build peace, and they did find a way to co-exist together on the same small piece of land and found a way to bury the rage and grief from all those centuries.

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  8. I’m honestly conflicted about whether the world should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I understand the international politics of not recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Its going to piss off hundreds of millions of people and make only many fewer people happy. At the same time, Jerusalem is very important to Jews, why shouldn’t be recognize as the capital of the Jewish state? The world generally respects the non-Muslims barred from Mecca and Medina rule that Islam enforces. Having embassies to the Jewish state in Israel seems fair.

    Part of me suspects that if we were dealing with the Arab Republic of Palestine or the Islamic State of Palestine, nobody would have a problem treating Jerusalem as its capital. Likewise, when/if Palestine becomes free the Muslim countries are going to put their embassies in East Jerusalem and not Ramallah. I suspect for than a few non-Muslim countries will do the same while maintain their embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv. This pisses me off on an emotional level. I do not trust an international regime to respect or protect Jewish rights in Jerusalem either.

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    • If the Palestinians get a capital in E. Jerusalem that becomes internationally recognized, I’d bet Israel’s capital claims there would also be.

      I don’t think anyone doubts the importance of Jerusalem to Jews/Israelis. Do most Jews/Israelis recognize the importance of Jerusalem to Palestinians/Muslims?

      And I don’t think comparing to Mecca/Medina is accurate. Is either a capital? Does either house embassies?

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            • Because any muslim connection or claim to Jerusalem is about conquest, not Islam.

              That’s not true.

              Jerusalem is important to Muslims because in 620 the Prophet Muhammad was taken by the miraculous steed Buraq to visit the Farthest Mosque, which Muslims believe is Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, where he prayed, and was then taken to the heavens, all in a single night.

              The Muslim conquest of Jerusalem by the Caliph Omar only took place in 638; eighteen years later.

              You might believe the miraculous journey of the Prophet is bogus, but then plenty of religious beliefs are equally difficult to accept by non believers (loafs and fish? tablets from heaven?). You don’t get to say “the beliefs of these people are respectable and thus Jerusalem’s importance in their religious life must be accounted for; the beliefs of these other people are laughable and we won’t dignify them by taking them into consideration”

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              • “Jerusalem is important to Muslims because in 620 the Prophet Muhammad was taken by the miraculous steed Buraq to visit the Farthest Mosque, which Muslims believe is Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem”

                The Al Aqsa Mosque was not built until well after Omar’s conquest in 638. There was no mosque in Jerusalem when Muhammad rode the flying mule.

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                • The Al Aqsa Mosque was not built until well after Omar’s conquest in 638. There was no mosque in Jerusalem when Muhammad rode the flying mule.

                  The “current” Al-Aqsa Mosque was not built until (shortly) after Omar’s conquest. No one has ever said that this is the same building Muhammad prayed in, or that he prayed inside a building, just that he prayed in a holy place.

                  And the Buraq was (is) not a mule

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                  • “No one has ever said that this is the same building Muhammad prayed in, or that he prayed inside a building, just that he prayed in a holy place.”

                    What would be an example of a holy place that is called a mosque that is not a building?

                    The narrative about the night journey is not steady literature. The translations of Sura 17:1 are all over the place*. They read as if the prophet (with no prophecies) was taken by Allah, not Gabriel and an equine, and to a mosque some distance from Mecca, not Jerusalem.

                    http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=17&verse=1

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                    • The problem with religions is that religious believers do not care for exegesis and textual analysis. It doesn’t matter if Muhammad was or wasn’t carried to Jerusalem to pray and then to Heaven.

                      Billions of Muslims believe that he did. Hence Jerusalem is important because of the Night Voyage, regardless of if that night Muhammad actually stayed home.

                      Just like billions of people believe Jesus was born of a Virgin, even though we know parthenogenesis is not possible in mammals. Try making the no parthenogenesis argument argument this coming Christmas, and let us know how it went.

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                      • “The problem with religions is that religious believers do not care for exegesis and textual analysis….Same as billions of people believe…”

                        I think lots of them actually do. But there are all kinds of religions, and people believe in all kinds of miracles. In the case of Israel, the fact that it is there at all is a very prestigious one.

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                          • “We are questioning/arguing against the idea that it is unimportant or not religiously important to Muslims.”

                            The religious importance is way overinflated. There are muslim scholars who, quoting the Quran, make the case that Jerusalem is to the Jews what Mecca is to Islam. The current outrage looks pretty much like a dog-in-the-manger attitude on the part of muslims. Much more about hateful envy and covetousness, and much less about religious constancy.

                            Have you ever read Mark Twain’s description of Jerusalem in Innocents Abroad?

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                            • Standards of civility are particularly high on contentious topics. If what you have to say is mostly that Muslims who are outraged are lying/envious/hateful/covetous, etc., there are other venues than here to say it.

                              If that isn’t what you mostly have to say, kindly refrain from throwing those attacks on the group “Muslims” into your comments.

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                          • According to wiki it’s the place where M ascended into heaven (or something) and their #3 most important site. So really important. However I doubt this line of thought goes anywhere useful.

                            We should assume it’s religious importance is really high to both sides and that religion is being used shamelessly to justify doing what they want to do anyway.

                            Despite its supposed importance, I consider it a non-issue. If they don’t want peace then it’s a great excuse on why peace is impossible. If we had reasonable people on both sides who wanted peace, we’d get some sort of agreement. The Church of the Nativity has 7 denominations share it (often dysfunctionally but whatever).

                            At the moment it’s a great excuse on why peace is impossible.

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  9. LeeEsq: Yes, we do. We just think the Muslims are being extraordinarily hypocritical about Jerusalem. They demand everything and give nothing.

    What exactly do they have to give regarding Jerusalem?

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  10. (Phil said:)

    To actually be fair, the Islamic crucifixion description was composed almost six hundred years after the eyewitness accounts of Matthew and John.

    And if you really want to get into creation myths, the official scientific consensus ideas begins at deep sea vents or meteorite impacts billions of years ago, and after zillions of miraculous accidents, here we are arguing about Jerusalem.

    The Bible tells an easier story, one that can be measured against history:

    Isaiah 11:11-12
    “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”

    Luke 21:24
    “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

    The ‘until’ is over with.

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  11. @jaybird Is it “the Koran says X”? or is it “Many people believe that the Koran says X and don’t bother reading the verses in question”?

    This is religion. There is no difference between “it says” and “people think it says”. These sorts of texts are flexible enough to mean anything so they mean whatever tradition and the priests say.

    The Bible is for or against Slavery depending on who is talking. There are phrases in the Koran which solidly support it being a religion of peace, to kill one person is to kill all mankind (or something, that’s from memory). There are other phrases which support wars. The Priests have both of them on the shelf for use depending on the situation.

    My expectation is there’s something in the Koran which can be used to indicate Jerusalem is an important city. Maybe it’s black letter, maybe it was written in stone, maybe it’s just some Priest four(ish) centuries ago who pointed to a passage and said “that’s what this means” while drumming up support for a war(*). But arguing a city isn’t really important to Islam is pointless when a Billion people think it is and there are suicide bombers lined up to earn their way into paradise.

    (*)Imagine you’re a Priest centuries ago during the crusades. Will you view your job as nitpicking holy statements and maybe losing the war, or will you view your job as firing up the troops with statements about how holy this set of land is?

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    • While I am 100% down with the argument that religious beliefs are socially constructed, I still think that it’s possible to read a verse and say what it says.

      Sure, we live in a world where people can argue that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t protect Joe Schmoe’s right to own a gun so it’s not like “well, what do the words actually *SAY*?” is a foolproof method of reading text, but it *SHOULD* be possible to read text and make a reasonable argument that “hey, the words here don’t actually say what you say they say” and shift the burden of proof back onto the person who argues that if you only understood the greater context provided by the last two millennia of exegesis that you’d see things their way.

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      • @phil

        FWIW, arguing over how orthodox Muslims should interpret the Koran without any references to the hadith is pretty much like arguing over how orthodox Jews should interpret the Torah without any references to the Mishnah, ie fairly pointless if you are trying to convince anyone actually in the religion that you know what you’re talking about even a little bit. (And that’s without even getting into how different branches of Islam revere different sets of hadith.)

        Like, Dark Matter is right that there’s really no point to arguing over whether millions and millions of people *should* hold a certain religious belief or not based on your reading of their central religious scripture, although since you both come from sola scriptura traditions, I get where the temptation comes from…

        But most people don’t worship a sola scriptura God. Even the ones that reverence holy scriptures.

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        • I’m not even saying that they *SHOULD* do anything.

          I am saying that *WE* should be able to look up a verse in response to someone else saying “our scriptures say X!” and see what the verses actually say. (And, yeah, if the verses do not appear to say X, I am going on to say that we have sufficient footing to ask “what the hell?”)

          If the answer is “well, not everybody has a sola scriptura deity”, let me just point out that I’m content with any answer that begins with “okay, maybe the verses don’t technically say X *BUT*” as close enough for government work.

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          • I’m content with any answer that begins with “okay, maybe the verses don’t technically say X *BUT*” as close enough for government work.

            So? Assume you’re right and the verses don’t actually say Jerusalem.

            What do we do with that? Explain to a Billion Muslims their religion is wrong? If there’s a good way to do that then “Jerusalem” (or Islam) is hardly where I’d start.

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            • What do we do with that? Explain to a Billion Muslims their religion is wrong?

              Well, I’m down with moving the argument from “what does the verse actually say” to “okay, the verse doesn’t technically say that but so what”.

              I’m not sure where we get to “explain to a billion muslims” after that.

              I’m cool with us agreeing that we started in a place where we quoted the Wikipedia as saying “and Muhammad made his Night Journey there ten years later, ascending to heaven where he speaks to God, according to the Quran.” and then, from there, agreeing that the verses that the Wikipedia cited from the Quran do not, technically, appear to substantiate that claim.

              If we want to argue that religious people in general believe things and you just can’t argue against what religious people believe, I’d be down with that.

              At this point, I’m just discussing the much more minor point of whether we can learn what the Quran says by reading it.

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              • Agreed.

                …discussing the much more minor point of whether we can learn what the Quran says by reading it.

                It’s a really, really hard read where what we really care about is the opinion of the guys holding the guns. So imho we’re better off with the cliff notes version and wiki.

                And I suspect even that doesn’t matter. Whenever I hear the phrase “God wants this” I translate that into “I want this” and that tells me a lot more about what’s going on.

                If the Palestinians ever decide peace is a good idea, I’m sure they’ll find scripture to back that decision. The current problem is they don’t want peace and they’ve managed to convince Israel peace isn’t an option. So Israel is behaving as though peace isn’t an option and they only do damage control.

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              • I doubt it.

                Take the Bible as a simpler example, since it’s helpfully been translated into English many time, and look at Isaiah 7:14, which says (KJV)

                Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

                Christians think this prophesies the birth of Christ, which is why they translate a word that means young woman into virgin.

                Jews don’t think it has anything to do with Jesus, who, as it turns out, wasn’t named Immanuel.

                Thus reading the text without knowing its traditional meaning is insufficient. (Also true of the law, but that’s a different discussion.)

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                • Again, I’m down with moving from “what does it actually say?” to “okay, the verse doesn’t technically say that but so what”.

                  I just think that moving to the “well, you have to understand the context of this…” is an important step and, without it, you’re effectively stuck parroting texts phonetically and saying with “God said it. I believe it. That does it.”

                  I mean, assuming you’re quoting it at all.

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        • “arguing over how orthodox Muslims should interpret the Koran without any references to the hadith…if you are trying to convince anyone”

          I’m not arguing or trying to convince Muslims. I’m just pointing out that, regardless of how they arrived at their beliefs, they are entirely ignorable because there was no Al Aqsa mosque in Byzantine Jerusalem, and Muhammed never actually went there.

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    • There are phrases in the Koran which solidly support it being a religion of peace, to kill one person is to kill all mankind (or something, that’s from memory).

      Here’s the verse I think you’re referencing (I’ll use Pickthall’s translation):

      For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth.

      It’s followed by verses 33 and 34:

      The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom; Save those who repent before ye overpower them. For know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

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  12. The topic is “Donald Trump just asserted that Jerusalem is, in fact, the capital of Israel, now what?”

    Maybe it would be most useful to hammer out the uncontroversial premises. Like, I’m trying to say stuff that everybody would agree is true. (So if I say “people think X”, I’m not saying “X is true” but “people think X”.)

    Jerusalem holds the governmental buildings and symbolic residences related to the Israeli government (and did so even before Trump made his pronouncement). It’s where the Knesset is. The official residence of the Prime Minister is there. The residence of the President of Israel is there. Additionally, Israel considers Jerusalem the capital (but this is only recognized by Czech Republic, Taiwan, the United States, and Vanuatu).

    Countries that are not the Czech Republic, Taiwan, the United States, or Vanuatu do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital. They recognize Tel Aviv as the capital. Al-Jazeera has an article explaining why Jerusalem is *NOT* the capital of Israel.

    Jerusalem has contested claims to it because, among other things, multiple religions claim it as very important to their religion. There is a tattoo parlor there, for example, that has been giving Christian Pilgrims tattoos since the 1300s. In addition to that, there are claims made to the city by both Muslims and Jewish people that claim that Jerusalem has important religious roots for their own religion.

    Jewish claims to Jerusalem include some claims to some stuff adjacent to Bible stories. King David and such. The Western Wall, for example, is part of the Second Jewish Temple (that dates back to Herod the Great).

    Muslim claims to Jerusalem include some claims to stuff adjacent to Quranic stories. For example, that Allah whisked Mohammed off to Jerusalem where Mohammed was subsequently taken to heaven in what is called The Night Journey. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered the third holiest site in Islam and it is built on the Temple Mount. A couple of Mosques were built there really early in Islam (like, in the 700s) but earthquakes knocked them down. The current Mosque dates back to 1035 or so.

    Emotions are high in the region.

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    • ”Did I miss any?”

      I would add only one thing.

      The truth is a singular, precise thing. It is narrow to the point of total exclusion of everything that is not the truth. The truth is not relative, and is not what experts, scholars or scientists think. The truth is rare, and can be painful, even brutal. The search for it is loaded with obstacles, the worst one being deceit. Because whatever the truth is, there are people who despise it, and do not want it publicized.

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    • ”Did I miss any?”

      I would add only one thing. The truth is a singular, precise thing. It is narrow to the point of total exclusion of everything that is not the truth. The truth is not relative, and is not what experts, scholars or scientists think. The truth is rare, and can be painful, even brutal. The search for it is loaded with obstacles, the most cruel one being deceit. Because whatever the truth is, there are people who despise it, and do not want it publicized.

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      • ”Did I miss any?”

        I edited out that part of my comment because it was too confrontational. I guess I didn’t get it in time.

        As for the rest of your comment, I suppose that I agree, but I also have to point out that what you’ve said is something that could be explained by an Islamic Scholar talking about why Jerusalem is so important to Allah just as easily as it could be said by a Hebrew scholar talking about why Jerusalem is so important to YHWH just as easily as it could be said by a Southern Babtist looking forward to the Red Heifer being born so we can finally get those End Times started.

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        • @phil Given that Jaybird’s claim was that he was making a list of uncontroversial premises, I don’t see how that fits. Plenty of people would disagree that the truth is ever so narrow as to allow it to be brutal.

          There is a vast difference between “maximally truthful” and “brutally honest” and most of the difference is people excusing self-indulgent brutality under cover of their supposed truth.

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            • You literally were responding to a list of uncontroversial premises and a question whether Jaybird had missed any, with a controversial claim about truth. I was pointing out that your addition was not uncontroversial.

              If you don’t think *that*’s true, that there is controversy about what you said, given that we are literally *in controversy* about it, I’m really not sure how to proceed.

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              • “The problem with belligerently asserting the truth is that it presents pretty identically to belligerently asserting falsehoods.”

                Belligerence aside, that depends on the information that comes with the assertions, right? I could claim that the four horsemen are the Beatles, but if I can’t back that up, I should be ignored.

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          • The Truth is often brutal. “It’s Cancer”. “He’s dead Jim”.

            A brutal truth is just one we don’t like. The world being round used to be brutal because people were taught it was flat (“God created the Firmament”). The Earth orbiting the Sun was so brutal and controversial it got people arrested. However facts are stubborn things.

            But “rare”? No. The Truth of the universe is now common and is showcased every time we flip a light switch.

            There is a vast difference between “maximally truthful” and “brutally honest” and most of the difference is people excusing self-indulgent brutality under cover of their supposed truth.

            What most of these people call “Truth” is nothing of the kind. A social construct which seeks power, organizes people, and aids war is not “Truth”.

            Objective Truth is something you can test. So Test your faith. If it fails because it is not the Truth, then discard it.

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        • “I also have to point out that what you’ve said is something that could be explained by an Islamic Scholar talking about why Jerusalem is so important to Allah…”

          I’m good with that as long as the scholars are bringing facts to the table. Being a mullah, an imam, a rabbi, a pope, an historian, a preacher or a biologist doesn’t cut it if they are just going to tell me what they like.

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          • Ummm…didn’t you just say:

            “The truth is a singular, precise thing. It is narrow to the point of total exclusion of everything that is not the truth. The truth is not relative, and is not what experts, scholars or scientists think. The truth is rare, and can be painful, even brutal.”

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    • When I think about it, “normal” countries are allowed to pick their own Capital, they’re even allowed to move it. This is supposed to be “uncontroversial” on the face of it. The rest of the world wouldn’t do more than blink if we redefined the Capital to be New York, or even Dallas. The only reason to not “recognize” Jerusalem is it makes the Palestinians unhappy… but that seems a weird reason to not do it.

      I guess I’m in favor of treating Israel like a normal country and the conflict like a normal conflict. Presumably that includes ending the refugee status of the children of refugees.

      I think the part which makes J-as-capital so painful for the Palestinians is it’s a step along the “Israel will continue to exist” path.

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      • China/Taiwan have similar issues with international recognition, although not surrounding the capital, more surrounding whether Taiwan is part of China and which government is legitimate. Other countries side step around that for Taiwan’s sake. It’s not unheard of to forgo something reasonable, diplomacy-wise, for no other reason than to avoid increasing tensions in a region.

        (This isn’t me saying we shouldn’t recognize Jerusalem or should (long-term), it’s just noting that it isn’t that weird to have illogical diplomatic impasses.)

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        • That’s a really good example (Thank you)… but I’m not sure Taiwan has benefited from avoiding the issue. If the world had pointed out Taiwan was separated in the 1950’s when China was weak and isolated, we’d have had decades of that political reality.

          Instead we’re going to wait until China is really, really strong, and then the issue will be “resolved”, maybe at gun point and maybe just at threat of gun point.

          In both cases we’re waiting around for a country to be destroyed.

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          • “If the world had pointed out Taiwan was separated in the 1950’s when China was weak and isolated, we’d have had decades of that political reality.”

            Or we’d have had a nuclear war. China was starving its people in the late 50s/early 60s, but they still had enough whatever to send military aid to North Korea. And Russia sent aid to China on more than one occasion.

            If they’d taken, or the Russians who still had a lot of Chinese influence in the 50s had taken, sufficient offense to us pointing it out back then, it might have been the trigger to turn the Cold War hot.

            Meanwhile, Taiwan and China are getting closer and closer together politically/economically, as China wanders away from communism and toward a market economy.

            So the eventual takeover may go as smoothly as Hong Kong’s did, with the remaining Nationalist holdouts in Taiwan folded into the far-less-communist mainstream Chinese political body.

            (I’m honestly not educated enough to have a strong opinion as to which one *would* have happened, back in the 50s, even though I’ve been studying Chinese history in a desultory fashion for half my life. But I know enough to know there’s a very plausible case that either could have happened, and that the threat of nuclear holocaust was a big reason why no one insisted-to-the-point-of-war on getting their own way back then.)

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      • The world doesn’t treat Israel as a normal country though and never did. Many people do not see Israel as a country created by Jewish self-determination but an artifact of white imperialism with the Jews as nothing more than an odd type of white people. This view is particular common among Muslims but many people on the Further Left or in non-Western nations also believe it. Even countries nominally supportive of Israel as a Jewish state see it as somewhat semi-sovereign because it was created by a UN vote rather than an act of Jewish political will in their minds.

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        • The UN vote, the Holocaust, and anti-semitism (especially among the Arabic countries). If memory serves, they stopped being “White” right after the war of 1948.

          The Arabic countries all kicked their Jews out after the war. Mostly they went to Israel. This is what took their population to millions.

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            • Many Arab countries passed legislation to forbid Jews from leaving after they last the 1948 law. When Iraq legalized Jewish immigration they thought only a few thousand would go and were unpleasantly surprised when the entire community went. They didn’t want to increase Israel’s population.

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