The Australian Editorial
May 14, 2018
With Middle East tensions at their most dangerous in years, the Trump administration must use today’s historic opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem to reinvigorate the drive for peace talks aimed at a two-state solution. The US embassy has not been located in the Jewish capital since Israel’s May 14, 1948 declaration of independence. Like other major nations including Australia, the US steered clear of prejudging Israeli and Palestinian claims to sites in the holy city by keeping its embassy in Tel Aviv.
Successive US presidents promised to make the move but found excuses not to do so. Far more quickly than expected after Donald Trump’s announcement in December that he would fulfil his election commitment, the much-anticipated move will today become, in the words of Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, “(no longer) just a dream, but reality”.
The US lead has enormous significance for the Jewish people as they battle for survival. Self-defeating posturing by Palestinian leaders who insist the embassy relocation precludes the US from any future involvement in starting peace talks is foolish. Other than the Israelis and Palestinians, US involvement is the most important element in the prospect for peace.
In the run-up to what Hamas calls the “Day of Catastrophe” — Israel Independence Day today — Hamas terrorists in Gaza have been sending wave after wave of Palestinians to try to tear down the fence dividing their impoverished enclave from Israel. Dozens have been killed as Israeli soldiers prevent a mass breakthrough. The clashes between Israel and Iran following last week’s bombardment of Israeli positions in the Golan Heights by Iranian rocket fire are even more ominous. Amid deepening fears of full-scale war, Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes against about 50 Iranian bases built by Tehran’s 80,000 Revolutionary Guards deployed in Syria. The bases were built for an onslaught against Israel and the Iranian attacks appeared linked to Mr Trump’s pullout of the US from the Iran nuclear deal. Seldom has the need for resumed peace talks on a two-state solution been more urgent.