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Trump’s ominous Jerusalem declaration

Dec 12,2017 - Last updated at Dec 12,2017

President Trump’s resounding declaration, last Wednesday, to recognise the occupied Palestinian city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital came as a devastating blow to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims all over the world. In fact, it also left every other country, particularly America’s European allies, stunned by such an unnecessary and dangerous step that left no doubts about its ominous implications. Even in the US, there were voices expressing doubt about the wisdom of such a move at a time when the entire Middle East is moving from one serious crisis to another. The only government to celebrate Trump’s decision and hail it as a victory was the ultra right-wing government in Israel.

Massive protests erupted in the Occupied Palestinian territories, in most Arab capitals as well as in many other countries voicing their condemnation and rejection. In addition to the fact that the move has been described as illegal and in flagrant violation of international law and dozens of UN resolutions renouncing all Israeli measures in Jerusalem, it has also been unanimously deplored as reckless and provocative.

From a legal standpoint, President Trump, like Balfour 100 years earlier, has no authority to cede an Arab occupied city to its occupier. The US president’s decision remains a single state declaration to which only the initiator has a commitment. It does not bind any other state. Therefore, it has no legal grounds to change the status of Jerusalem. This, however, should not be seen as a consolation for the Palestinians and their supporters. International law has long been marginalised leaving power politics to freely function.

It is also because the initiator in question, the US, is not just any state but rather one that has overwhelming prevalence; one that virtually controls the United Nations Security Council; one that has tremendous influence in the concerned region and beyond to the point that effective counter measures against it by those directly affected seem to be very limited.

But if this applies on the official leadership levels, it does not apply to the Arab masses where frustration has been mounting year after year as a result of sustained Israeli aggression and oppressive occupation, encouraged by international, and even Arab acquiescence. While enjoying full immunity and protection at the UN by successive US governments, while fearing no consequences and acting with total impunity and while having its occupation funded by foreign donors, Israel has been surging frantically with its colonisation scheme in the occupied Palestinian territories while the two-state solution mantra has acted as a smokescreen. Now with Trump’s green light declaration, Israel will move even faster, dig deeper and speed up the process of creating irreversible facts on the ground.

The irony is that the Trump administration continues to talk about a peace plan in the making. If there was any hope, even a slim one, before Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem, it is hard to imagine any possibility of such a promise now.

The Jerusalem blunder has killed all chances for any possible peace agreement; it has eliminated all hope that the parties can head towards negotiations with Israel’s usual intransigence emboldened; it has let down Arab moderates while at the same time boosting trends of radicalisation and extremism; it plays well for the terrorists; it has stripped the US of its credentials as a peace patron, let alone an honest broker; and it has empowered the otherwise quiet masses who are demonstrating their bitter anger in the streets all over the Arab and Muslim worlds.

The impact that these massive protests will have on the region is hard to predict and we do not yet know if the Palestinian uprising will turn into a full-fledged rebellion. We also do not know if the situation would quickly get out of control in the event of violence or Israel deciding to go to war against Gaza or Lebanon.

All we know is that President Trump’s decision has put the region on a very dangerous course. His inflammatory move is the precise prescription for long-term instability and possible violence. No one will benefit, least of all the jubilant Israelis. Israel is not missing any opportunity to deepen the rift between itself and its Arab environment and is destroying all chances of reconciliation and future peace by exercising its most extremist policies and arrogantly denying the rights of all others. However, on the other hand, the Jerusalem declaration has united the Palestinians, mobilized the people against the move, consolidated support for the Palestinian cause and re-placed the Arab Israeli conflict at the top of international and regional concern. 

The US is also isolating itself, not from the Arab and Muslim worlds, but from many others as well. The foreign policy of the new administration has not been very popular or convincing even to the closest US allies; examples of which include the withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, attempts to cancel the nuclear treaty with Iran, the risky handling of the North Korea threat, bombing Syria, tampering with the Gulf Region and finally the serious and dangerous miscalculation regarding Jerusalem.

All this has been decided by the same Trump administration that had previously condemned and warned against the pursuit of destabilising interventionist policies implemented by previous administrations.

During his candidature in a major foreign policy speech on April 27, 2016, candidate Trump said:  “In the 1940s we saved the world. The greatest generation beat back the Nazis and Japanese imperialists. Then we saved the world again. This time, from totalitarianism and communism. The Cold War lasted for decades but, guess what, we won and we won big. Democrats and Republicans working together got Mr Gorbachev to heed the words of president Reagan, our great president, when he said, tear down this wall.

“History  will not forget what he did. A very special man and president. Unfortunately, after the Cold War our foreign policy veered badly off course. We failed to develop a new vision for a new time. In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense. Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, which led to one foreign policy disaster after another

“They just kept coming and coming. We went from mistakes in Iraq to Egypt to Libya, to President Obama’s line in the sand in Syria. Each of these actions have helped to throw the region into chaos and gave ISIS the space it needs to grow and prosper. Very bad. It all began with a dangerous idea that we could make western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interests in becoming a western democracy

“We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism, thousands of Americans and just killed be lives, lives, lives wasted. Horribly wasted. Many trillions of dollars were lost as a result. The vacuum was created that ISIS would fill. Iran, too, would rush in and fill that void much to their really unjust enrichment.They have benefited so much, so sadly, for us. Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster. No vision. No purpose. No direction. No strategy”. Those were the exact words of candidate Trump.  

 

I leave it to the smart reader to struggle to reconcile this wisdom with what has been happening since President Trump took office.

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