The new Raleigh City Council got off to something of a rocky start yesterday, with a council rebellion against Mayor Nancy McFarlane laying the groundwork for what could be a contentious two years. Here’s what happened:

  • As mayors have always, McFarlane submitted a list of committee chairs and assignments for the council to vote on, based on conversations she’d had with members in recent weeks. Standard procedure. But then Russ Stephenson and David Cox submitted their own list of committee assignments, which the council, in a 5–3 vote, choose over McFarlane’s.
  • That vote count comes with an asterisk, though. Just before the vote, Corey Branch, who was just unanimously named mayor pro tem, left the dais. Under council rules that make no sense to me, because he was gone but had not been formally excused, his vote defaulted to a yes, giving the Cox/Stephenson crew the fifth vote they needed for passage. Branch later told the INDY he had a sinus infection. Asked how he would have voted, he responded, “I was working on a compromise, so not sure.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The committee assignments aren’t in and of themselves a huge deal, though

one in particular

may have ramifications. On the committee that handles growth and natural resources, Cox and Stephenson replaced Nicole Stewart (who works for the N.C. Conservation Network) with Stef Mendell, who campaigned on a slow-growth platform, and added Stephenson to the panel. That leaves the committee on a much firmer anti-growth track.

  • “McFarlane and Thompson said they were frustrated and confused by the choice to contradict McFarlane’s recommendation. The mayor is typically tasked with setting assignments for committees that tackle issues such as economic development and transportation. … Stephenson said his list represented the council’s wishes, but Thompson said he had never seen the list before the meeting.”

WHAT’S NEXT: If the Stephenson/Cox coalition can keep cobbling together five votes, it seems likely that this council will be much more neighborhood-oriented and anti-development than its predecessor—for better or worse. The gold rush of development needs the occasional check, to be sure, and some previous council members seemed to never see a development proposal they didn’t love. But if the council moves too far in the other direction, the city’s progress could come to a halt. Already, the council has dallied on no-brainer things like Airbnb and backyard cottages. You have to wonder how this new group is going to tackle those issues.


Today—against the wishes of the pope and the entire Arab world—Donald Trump will announce that the U.S. is moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus formally recognizing Jerusalem as the country’s capital.

  • “President Trump on Wednesday plans to upend decades of U.S. policy by formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordering the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to that city, senior aides said, a decision that could derail the White House’s peace efforts and spark regional unrest.”
  • “The president began informing his counterparts in the region of his decision Tuesday, prompting warnings from several countries that the move would inflame Muslims and disrupt progress toward a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. U.S. allies in Europe, including France, also have opposed such a change in policy, and the State Department sent a classified memo to embassies in the Middle East late last month warning of potential anti-American protests.”
  • In Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem, said King Salman bin Abdul Aziz warned Trump ‘that such a dangerous step of relocation or recognition of Al-Quds as the capital of Israel would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world.’”

THE HISTORY: Here’s why this is a provocation that will have repercussions throughout the Middle East.

  • “The United Nations partition plan drawn up in 1947 envisaged Jerusalem as a separate ‘international city.’ But the war that followed Israel’s declaration of independence one year later left the city divided. When fighting ended in 1949, the armistice border—often called the Green Line because it was drawn in green ink—saw Israel in control of the western half, and Jordan in control of the eastern half, which included the famous Old City.”
  • During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied East Jerusalem. Since then, all of the city has been under Israel’s authority. The city marks ‘Jerusalem Day’ in late-May or early-June. But Palestinians, and many in the international community, continue to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.”
  • “In July of 1980, Israel passed a law that declared Jerusalem the united capital of Israel. The United Nations Security Council responded with a resolution condemning Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and declared it a violation of international law.”
  • Eighty-six countries currently have embassies in Israel. None are in Jerusalem.

WHAT IT MEANS: First, raise your hand if you believed the freaking Trump administration had any chance in hell of negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement under even the best of circumstances. Even so:

  • “There is a small constituency in the United States that genuinely cares about the location of the American embassy in Israel. Evangelicals and a right-wing, pro-Israel lobby thrilled at President Trump’s campaign promises to reverse decades of U.S. policy by recognizing a ‘united’ Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shifting the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. At a speech on Wednesday, Trump is expected to outline his plans to do just that. While that is happy news for some of his core supporters—as well as the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—the proposed move risks starting new fires in the Middle East and attracting the fury of the international community.”
  • The recriminations and warnings from Arab leaders this morning are worth noting.
  • “The decision will ‘provoke Muslims and Christians alike,’ Jordan’s King Abdullah predicted, while Pope Francis urged the White House to reconsider.”
  • “Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be an act of ‘madness’ that would ‘plunge the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight,’ Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said.”
  • “‘There is no way that there can be talks with the Americans. The peace process is finished. They have already pre-empted the outcome,’ Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi told the Associated Press. ‘They cannot take us for granted.’”
  • “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Trump in a phone call of ‘dangerous consequences’ for peace efforts and regional stability, spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said. Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas, said relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem ‘breaks red lines’ and recognizing the city as Israel’s capital would be ‘igniting the spark of rage against the occupation.’”

WHAT’S NEXT: It’s interesting that Trump is acting at the urging of Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, which provides the president with some bipartisan cover. But should the move spark another round of violence and instability in the region, as the Arab leaders expect, it’s hard for me to see what the upside is for the United States or the world, beyond the president appealing to a core of hard-core supporters. In the best case scenario, the peace process, which was on life support at best, is dead, at least for this administration.

This post was excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.