Ever since its foundation in 1948, Israel has become an important US ally in the Middle East, and the US has also become the important guarantor for Israel’s security and interests in the international arena.
However, none of the US presidents during the past decades challenged the consensus that the status of Jerusalem should be solved through the Israel-Palestinian peace talks under the supervision of international society. The US, like the rest of the world, had repeatedly refused to acknowledge Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem, until Trump’s decision on Wednesday of “calling Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence arrive for Trump to deliver remarks recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the White House in Washington, US December 6, 2017. /Reuters Photo
Trump’s Middle East plan was in stalemate. He hopes that in fulfilling his previous promises to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the international society will also do the same. However, given the religious importance and political sensitivity of the Jerusalem issue, Trump’s actions mean the US will deny the legal claims of the Arab world and Palestinian people over the ownership of Jerusalem. The US will now face challenges from the entire Muslim world, and US individuals and interests will surely be targeted by waves of terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in the Middle East.
Trump’s Jerusalem decision will surely damage the Israel-Palestine peace talks mediated by the US. On one hand, it will strongly encourage the right-wing political forces in Israel, and further political claims such as annexing the West Bank and continuing Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. On the other hand, Trump’s decision makes attempts by any political leaders from both Palestine and the Arab world with the intention of joining the peace talk with Israel impossible.
US Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump announces that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move its embassy there, during an address from the White House in Washington, US, December 6, 2017. /Reuters Photo
To join the peace talks with Israel, given the current framework, means accepting the mediation by the US. But Trump’s new decision is unacceptable for any political leader in the Arab world.
Meanwhile, Trump’s decision might also provoke the anger of Palestinians and the Arab Muslims, who might believe that their legal claim of establishing an independent national state has been deserted by the US and international society. Waves of terrorist attacks might come in the near future, not only targeting Israel but also US and other western individuals.
In addition, Trump’s decision makes the US no longer an appropriate actor to mediate the disputes between Israel and Palestine, and it also means a significant blow to the US political reputation in the Arab world.
We should keep in mind that the Jerusalem issue for Israel and the Arab world is a zero-sum issue. As Trump chooses to stand with Israel, as this action seems to indicate, it will surely significantly deteriorate the US’s relations with the Arab and Muslim world. As an important city with too much religious, political, cultural and identity values for both Jews and Arabs, there is little room for any leaders to maneuver to reach “balance.”
A man walks by as the Israeli national flag and an American one are projected on a part of the walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City December 6, 2017. /Reuters Photo
Unfortunately, it seems that Trump is choosing conflict over peace; and injustice and occupation over justice, freedom and independence. The peaceful relation between Israel and Palestine might also collapse with Trump’s new decision over the status of Jerusalem.