By The Nation
This past Wednesday, US President Donald Trump announced that the US would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and officially recognise this ancient city as the capital of the Jewish state.
Trump reasoned that American presidents before him signed waiver after waiver delaying the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem, thinking it would obstruct any peace initiative between the Israelis and Palestinians.
But, “after more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result”, Trump said. “Therefore, I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he said.
Trump’s America has once again broken ranks with international
consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be decided in a final peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.
Israelis see Jerusalem as their undivided capital, while many Palestinians envision the predominantly Arab eastern part of the city as their future capital if and when a Palestinian state comes into being.
But Trump couldn’t wait. He wanted to go down in history as the first US president to break ranks with past American leaders, as if this is some sort of great achievement.
The decision to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel is not Trump’s to make and one shouldn’t fall for this man’s latest scam. The Israeli Parliament passed the decision into law in 1995. In other words, Trump didn’t really change anything because, in reality, one can easily make the argument that relocating the embassy is essentially a bureaucratic decision.
The act itself did not kill the peace process. It was Trump’s way of telling the world that his administration thinks it’s dead anyway. And in his mind, there is no reason to try to bring a dead horse to life.
Still open for discussion between the two sides is the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. The same goes for the final resolution of the contested borders between Israel and Palestine.
And because Jerusalem’s final
borders have yet to be worked out, there is the possibility of a Palestinian capital in the Arab-majority eastern part of the historic city. Unless, of course, Trump takes the additional step of declaring Jerusalem the
“undivided” capital of Israel and moves to recognise the annexation of Palestinian territories east of the 1967 line.
But if recent decades are any
indication, America’s position on the annexation of Palestinian lands doesn’t mean much given the fact that the Israelis continue to build homes and expand municipality areas east of the Old City towards what many Jewish politicians refer to as “undivided” Jerusalem.
The build-up of Israeli residential areas in occupied territory is not only illegal in the eyes of much of the world community but a controversial issue in Israel as well, especially among
people who support the idea that east Jerusalem could one day become
the capital of Palestine as some Palestinians envision.
But this does not mean Trump’s decision to relocate the embassy did not come with a price. Trump’s move was a stab in the heart for the Arabs, who see the move as something more than just normal bureaucracy.
It could have been one of those “if you don’t mind, then it doesn’t
matter” situations. But in this case, the Palestinians mind and they do mind greatly.
Let’s not forget that the most basic pronouncement, like setting up a checkpoint leading to a location of great importance, could set off massive street protests. The city is sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.
In the end what Trump has done was risk disqualifying the United States from playing a future meaningful mediation or facilitation role in the Israel-Palestine peace process. This is unfortunate, indeed.
In spite of being a good friend to Israel and stubbornly siding with Israel on just about every issue and every UN resolution, one can’t deny the importance of the US role in mediating the dispute between the two
However, this time around, Washington’s gesture of goodwill to Israel is a slap in the face for Palestinians, not to mention the fact that he ignored the position of the international community which clearly understands the sensitivity of this issue. But then Trump is Trump and he couldn’t care less about other people’s feelings or their position.