Jerusalem is on edge but where is Washington?
WASHINGTON - The unrest over Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem has propelled the Israeli- Palestinian conflict to the forefront of the agenda in Washington and prompted another visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry to the region where he met both sides in an attempt to calm the situation — and also demonstrate that the United States not only cares but still has influence.
In Amman, Kerry announced Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s “reaffirmation” of “Israel’s commitment to upholding the unchanged status quo of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif both in word and in practice”.
After thanking all sides for their “seriousness” in “calming things down and ending the violence”, Kerry spoke about the need to “not just end violence for a moment but create a path to a legitimate future”.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh was more specific. While appreciating “this confirmation of Israel’s commitment to the unchanged status quo in word and practice”, he emphasised that it was Jordanian King Abdullah’s idea to install 24-hour cameras to monitor Haram al-Sharif. Judeh also called for focusing on the “root cause of the entire problem”.
He highlighted the still-unfulfilled promise of a Palestinian state. But support for the creation one is down, according to Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, who spoke by teleconference to a Wilson Center briefing in Washington. He said there is a dramatic increase in support for a new intifada among Palestinians — 71% say they favour a renewed uprising — and that Palestinians are in a state of despair, with 80% saying other Arabs have abandoned them.
Many Palestinians say their promised state has been rendered unachievable by the situation on the ground that Israel is creating, which violates its commitments under various agreements with the Palestinian Authority, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian legislature, pointed out, adding that Israeli actions “are destroying the two-state solution”.
“Jerusalem is a wake-up call,” said Maen Areikat, the chief representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to Washington at a recent conference of the National Council on US-Arab Relations. “We continue to be for a two-state solution. This is the only ideal way out. Unfortunately, Israel today is pushing everybody for a one-state solution. I hope we can still find a partner in Israel.”
The crisis comes at a time when the perception that the United States is disengaging from the region is becoming widespread. Nothing illustrates this more than the cover of the magazine Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations. It reads: The Post American Middle East.
Ashrawi says the United States has a major role to play but has been “missing in action for a while”. Ashrawi said: “When the US does not engage there will be a vacuum. This means Israel will have the upper hand because it has the power.”
Shikaki also complained that the United States is not showing leadership and Areikat said: “The bilateral approach by the US has failed. It is not going to work. There has to be an international multilateral approach.”
With the US 2016 presidential campaigns in full swing and the White House seemingly viewing the Arab-Israeli conflict as intractable, Areikat summed up the feelings of many when he said, “Nothing will happen until the next elections” on the Palestinian-Israeli issue.