Jerusalem jeopardised?

By weighing in favour of Israel, Trump has dared to go against the path preferred by former US Presidents as well as the United Nations.

By Author   |   Published: 10th Dec 2017   12:17 am
Jarusalem
A view of Jerusalem's old city is seen Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Photo: PTI

“I have determined, it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While the previous Presidents made this their major campaign policy, they failed to deliver. Today I am delivering,” said President of United States Donald Trump on December 6, raising many an eyebrow.

Shifting the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv sure is a long process as admitted by several senior officials. However, Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital has already led to upshots.

While the President underscored his announcement with an emphasis on US commitment to a peace deal, the move appeared to signal a reduced commitment on his part to achieving it. Tension prevailed throughout the week as the announcement was made. Around 300 Palestinian protesters were injured and two were killed during clashes with Israeli security forces.

Condemning the announcement, Muslims around the world showed support to the Palestinians by taking out massive rallies and holding placards slamming the Trump government.

Most Intractable Conflict

Despite several attempts and mediations by many international forces, the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians has failed to be resolved.

The Israeli government, which captured East Jerusalem in 1967, has ever since claimed it to be an integral part of its territory and has been seeking international recognition for it.

With control over Jerusalem being one of the key issues, the conflict also includes water, security and border rights. The Israeli occupation of the two conflicted regions of Gaza and West Bank has reached 50 years, only adding to the existing woes.

Many international actors involved in the mediation, including ‘Quartet on the Middle East’ – consisting of the US, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – and the Arab League – with Egypt as the founding member and Jordan playing a key role – have not been able to help negotiations.

Jerusalem
Illustration by Chaitanya Krishna

Consequences

The US recognition comes as a welcome move for the Israelis. But, on the other hand, the Palestinians, fighting for an independent, recognised State, see it as a major roadblock on their way to achieving independence. While some would not want to take the path of violence, many would resort to it in the form of protests and clashes with the Israeli forces feeling that diplomatic attempts to reaching their goals have failed miserably.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the pivotal issues that international diplomats and peacemakers have said must be agreed between the two parties in negotiations.

The move will further destabilise an already volatile region. With international players like Turkey hinting at cutting diplomatic ties with Israel in case of the plan going ahead, it is unclear whether peace will be maintained in the region. Also, Israel’s relation with other States is highly under the risk of being affected.

World Reacts

Countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia – important allies of the US in the region – have already strongly condemned the move, clearly expressing dismay.

Saudi vociferously said that it believes the move damages Riyadh’s continuing efforts to rekindle a peace deal. The other Arab countries that border Israel – Egypt, Lebanon and Syria – have all condemned the move.

While the powerful Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said the US was “plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight”, Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, the governing authority in Gaza, decried the move, tweeting, “Trump’s decision will not succeed in changing the reality of Jerusalem being Islamic Arab land. This decision is foolish and time will tell that the biggest losers are Trump and Netanyahu.”

President of Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, Joko Widodo, strongly condemned the US decision and warned it could “destabilise global security.”

Flak came from all quarters, including the United Nations. Condemning the US move, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there was no alternative to a two-state solution and Jerusalem was a final status matter only to be settled through direct talks.

“I have consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardise the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” Guterres said.

New Goal Now?

Illustration by Chaitanya Krishna

What is the two-state solution? The idea of the Palestinian state existing in peace next to Israel is the two-state solution which most world leaders, the United Nations and surprisingly a majority of the Israelis pitch for.

It has been the goal of several international mediators since the 1947 UN Partition Plan. It also means that the holy city of Jerusalem will be divided between the two states.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu too was once for this. However, it may be recollected that it was an action that was taken under pressure by then US government led by Barack Obama.

With US announcing its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the push for a two-state solution seems to have slightly weakened.

Benjamin Gets a Boost

It was a shot in the arm for Benjamin Netanyahu when Trump made his decision on Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s goal is of dismantling the Palestinian national movement and he sees it as an uncompromising enemy of Zionism – the national movement of the Jewish people that supports the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland.

Netanyahu who understands that Israel’s existence and security depend on US support, said earlier this week that Israel is in contact with other countries following the US lead and recognising Jerusalem as the capital.

In Russia, Netanyahu had the first friend to pay heed. Russia, in April this year was the first country in the world to recognise any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when it recognised west Jerusalem as the capital. However, Russia issued an official statement saying that it will move its embassy to ‘west Jerusalem’ only ‘after the Palestinians and the Israelis agree on all issues of the final status of the Palestinian territories.’

On the downside for Netanyahu, he is facing strong opposition from most parts of the world, still leaving Jerusalem’s status jeopardised.