Trump’s provocative move on Jerusalem

December 10, 2017

US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is unwise and unnecessarily provocative.

The decision runs counter to every UN Security Council resolution since 1967 invalidating Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and calling for an end to its occupation.

It violates the internationally held principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.

It defies global consensus that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestin­ian state. Why couldn’t Trump have pledged to support the establishment of the capital of the future Palestinian state in East Jerusalem?

His decision betrays every promise by the international community — and guaranteed by the United States — that Jerusalem’s final status will be part of a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as specified in the 1993 Oslo Accords.

A city holy to three religions, Jerusalem’s future is one of the world’s most sensitive diplomatic issues. Jerusalem has enormous symbolic value for Jews, Muslims and Christians. Time and time again, developments related to Jerusalem have provoked unrest and even violence.

Trump’s unilateral declaration on Jerusalem cannot reflect genuine US commitment to peace in the Middle East. It is difficult to see how the announcement can live up to Trump’s own billing that it is “the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.” How can it be read as “a long overdue step to advance the peace process” when the decision aggravates doubts about US fairness as a broker in negotiations?

The announcement discredits the Trump administration’s assertion that it is working hard to bring both sides together “to achieve a just, lasting peace.”

Trump announced his decision on December 6 in defiance of international pleas for him to reconsider and grim warnings about the likely repercussions. With every passing day, condem­nation mounts across the Middle East and internationally. The world takes a grave view of US violation of international law, as the UN Security Council meeting of December 8 made clear.

The European Union was withering in its criticism. France, Germany and the United Kingdom expressed alarm. America’s traditional allies in the Middle East and beyond warned against the fallout. Saudi Arabia described the decision as “unjustified and irresponsible.” The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan condemned it. Russia said US recognition of Jerusalem risked “dangerous and uncontrollable consequences.”

Even in the United States, there is little support for tipping the scales towards Israel except from Trump’s Evangelical Christian, right-wing and hard-line supporters. A recent University of Mary­land Critical Issues Poll stated that 63% of Americans asked, including 44% of those who said they lean Republican, said they were opposed to the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A poll by the Arab Ameri­can Institute shows weak support for the move even among the most pro-Trump segments of the US public. A maximum of 33% of Republican-leaning respondents expressed support for Trump’s decision.

It is obvious that Trump made a consequential foreign policy decision motivated by narrow political motives and without consideration for its incendiary implications in an already volatile region.

Israel’s uncompromising attitude is cause of deep despair in the region. It has been expanding settlements even as it keeps the Palestinians disenfranchised. Less than half the population of Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Jordan no longer says that a settlement between Pales­tinians and Israelis is “possible,” polling by Zogby Research Services indicated.

The Arab world is already torn apart by multiple conflicts and US recognition of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem seems to dismiss what public opinion in the Arab world feels or thinks.

Trump said it is “time for young and moderate voices across the Middle East to claim for them­selves a bright and beautiful future” but his decision on Jerusalem will leave moderate voices struggling to be heard. It can only play into the hands of extremists who will gleefully argue that the United States and the West are hostile towards the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Finally, of course, the Trump administration’s declared commitment to fighting Islamic extrem­ism and Iranian-sponsored radicalism will ring hollow.

Trump’s move will provide extremists of all shades with an added argument to wreak havoc in the region and mortgage its future.