First published in the Arab Weekly on 17/12/2017
Coming up with creative ideas to bring peace is laudable but rewarding Israel for its illegal policies can only reignite the conflict.
For Palestinians, December 6 may well be remembered as “Black Wednesday,” the day when the United States defied international law and consensus on the status of Jerusalem and recognised it as the capital of Israel.
East Jerusalem is unanimously recognised by the international community as illegally occupied. This was reinforced in the dying days of the Obama administration in UN Security Council Resolution 2334.
There is no clear explanation why US President Donald Trump chose this time to make his announcement on Jerusalem and moving the US Embassy. It seems at odds with his Middle East advisers’ efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
An objective assessment of the announcement’s effect can only conclude that it will not help their efforts to bring peace, unless, of course, translating Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demands is the “ultimate deal” Trump wants to seal.
Trump claimed that he judged recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city “to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement.”
No independent analyst say this would contribute to peace-making. Neither do any significant world leaders.
Judging by the anger the decision created around the world, Trump’s judgment is very lacking. In the final communique of its summit in Istanbul, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held the US administration “fully responsible for any repercussions of it refusing to disavow this unlawful decision, taking it as a clear desertion by the US administration of its role as peace broker.”
The OIC dismissed the decision as “a gift to Israel for its continuous renouncement of agreements and blatant breach to international legitimacy.”
The call was also for OIC members to impose political and economic restrictions on nations, officials, parliaments, companies and individuals “recognising Israeli annexation of Al-Quds Al-Sharif, or engaging in any form with measures aimed at perpetuating Israeli colonisation of the occupied Palestinian territories.”
The move has, however, emboldened Netanyahu to make recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by the Palestinians a condition of the “ultimate deal.”
Trump justified his announcement in several ways.
First, he was implementing the decision of the US Congress in 1995, “the Jerusalem Embassy Act,” which mandated the US administration to move the embassy by 1999. However, US President Bill Clinton and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama signed waivers delaying the implementation of the act and Trump has continued the practice.
Second, Trump argued “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this as a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace.” However, East Jerusalem is not part of Israel and therefore it cannot be claimed to be part of its capital. There is no question Israel has no sovereignty over East Jerusalem.
Third, Trump claimed “we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality.”
“Today, Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government,” Trump said.
He failed to understand that Israel was locating instruments of government in Jerusalem exactly to create a “reality” that it hoped would strengthen its claim to the city.
Acknowledging this reality is rewarding aggression and illegality. It is a parallel policy to that of illegal settlement construction to create more acts on the ground.
Trump claimed that Jerusalem is the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times. That is not factual. What state has Jerusalem been a capital of for thousands of years?
Trump failed to accept that the Palestinian people have had a long and continuous presence in historic Palestine and Jerusalem and that if he truly wished to achieve peace he must acknowledge this.
It is telling that the White House said, a day after Trump’s Jerusalem announcement, that deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, a more moderate voice in his administration, was resigning.
Coming up with creative ideas to bring peace to the holy land is laudable but rewarding Israel for its illegal policies can only reignite the conflict. What is next for Jerusalem is a greater Israeli drive to push Palestinians out. Jerusalemites will do all they can to stay home.