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[Published: Tuesday January 02 2018]

Trump's controversial move exacerbates Israeli-Palestinian tension

By Sarah Diab

London, 02 Jan. - (ANA) - In the midst of the never ending Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the President of the United States, Donald Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by initiating the process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. Despite the somewhat impartial decisions taken by his predecessors, he explained at the diplomatic reception room of the White House that this would be a step towards peace as “Old challenges demand new approaches”.

However, this has done nothing but show his bias with the Israelis. He has chosen to completely ignore the fact that the whole Eastern part of Jerusalem belongs to what officially remains Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza). The “new approaches” he mentioned have left political observers perplexed and the president of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas has now refused any future US mediation in the conflict.

Since then, the United Nations Security Council voted a resolution to show their discord with Trump’s decision. Unsurprisingly, an American veto clashed with the rest of the councils’ backing of the resolution. Another vote by the General Assembly took place and overwhelmingly denounced Trump’s decision regarding Jerusalem. Before the vote, the US’s ambassador at the UN, Nikki Haley, warned that the American authorities “will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they often do, to pay even more”. However, her misplaced threats were ignored by many diplomats of countries that are some of America's closest allies such as the United Kingdom, France and Japan. These countries still believe the status of Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations. Some countries went as far as qualifying Haley’s threats as bullying: “This is bullying. It is unethical to think that the votes and dignity of member states are for sale”, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu ahead of the vote.

Disdain has also been projected from the Vatican, as the Pope clearly stressed his disagreement with Trump shortly after the decision was made. Additionally, he showcased his support for a two state solution during his speech on Christmas day where he called for the “peaceful coexistence of two States within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders”.

The 1947 partition plan of the disputed territory, orchestrated by the United Nations, clearly pointed out that Jerusalem was to be kept neutral because of its holiness to the three Abrahamic religions. The status of Jerusalem is not solely political, contrarily to what Trump is making it out to be; it is also religious. Indeed, the city is a holy site for Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Making it the capital of Israel would eradicate its multicultural dimension. 

It was the second time that the pope has spoken out publicly about Jerusalem since Trump’s decision on December 6. On that day, Pope Francis called for the city’s “status quo” to be respected, lest new tensions in the Middle East further inflame world conflicts.

While the Palestinians are preparing to settle for East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, Israel has illegally declared the whole city to be its “united and eternal” capital; and Washington’s recent choice has only reinforced their unjust territorial encroachment.
The pope told thousands of people at his general audience: 'I cannot keep quiet about my deep concern about the situation that has been created in the last few days.'

The United Nations have globally adopted over 75 resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories but to no avail. They either ignore them or depend on an American veto to block any implementation by the Security Council flaunting international law and defying the international community. The latest decision by Washington has implied a “unified” Jerusalem and implicitly recognized the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem in total disregard of the mass violations of Palestinian human rights and in support of Israel’s annexation policies.

Nevertheless, Israel’s government has never really been one to respect the rights of the people of Palestine. Not only do they do as they please with the territory by constantly building illegal settlements in land they chose to occupy; but when Palestinians try and retaliate through protests, they are attacked with tear gas, Molotov cocktails and sometimes with live ammunition. Moreover, they consistently refuse to investigate killings of Palestinians by their soldiers and security forces and when they eventually do it, it is never according to international standards.

Meanwhile Israel has praised Trumps’ undeniably controversial move. “I think what it does is finally recognize a historical truth” said Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an exclusive interview with CNN; comparing the resolution to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which stated that the British Government was in, “ favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national homeland for the Jewish people.” To show their appreciation of Trumps' move, the Israeli authorities have decided to name a train station in East Jerusalem after him, once again ignoring the fact that it is occupied territory belonging to Palestinians.

On the Palestinian part, the inauguration of the station has caused mayhem as the plans include an underground tunnel allowing trains to pass under the holy city. But it also indicates that it will go through territory that is part of the West Bank. Regardless of the offensive plan to Palestinians, Ikrema Sabri, the former grand mufti of Jerusalem has told Agence France Press, that “Giving the name of Trump to this project will not give it any legitimacy. It would be just another implementation of the unacceptable decision of President Trump […]”.

In the meantime, American authorities continue to insist that their end goal is peace within the region. They have even suggested a suburb of Jerusalem called Abu Dis as an alternative capital for the Palestinians. However, this offer could be considered a mockery by Palestinians especially if East Jerusalem is taken from them. The leader of Hamas Ismail Haniya has according to Al-Jazeera referred to Trumps’ decision as a ploy to ignore and ruin the Palestinian question.

Although Trump's controversial move has attracted a lot of negative attention; Guatemala has decided to follow in Trump’s footsteps, by also moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem after reportedly receiving substantial aid from Israel and the US. This shows how much influence the two powerhouses have on some small poor countries.

Moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is incontestably a historical Trump blunder that will remove US mediation from any further peace process in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
It was a promise made by Trump during his campaign and he had no idea of the consequences of his action, as indeed he did with Climate Change, the Obama-health-care programme and others.

However, the project could take years to be finalized and it could also be a problem for a future US president who would have to deal with it one way or the other. This could simply prolong the agony of the Palestinians and lead to further tension in the Israeli occupied territories.

The Israeli-Palestinian issue is once again back to the drawing board and for a new peace process to emerge with or without the United States' involvement, we just have to wait and see. For now, the people of Palestine will start the New Year with little hope while Israel continues to prosper through illegal occupation.  -  (ANA) -

AB/ANA/ 02 January 2018 - - -

The views expressed in are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of North-South Publications, its editor-in-chief or directors.


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