Friday,20 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1373, (14 - 20 December 2017)
Friday,20 July, 2018
Issue 1373, (14 - 20 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Trump’s move cannot stand

The international community and all peoples of the world have an interest in ensuring Trump rescinds his disastrous decision on Jerusalem, writes Laila Takla

اقرأ باللغة العربية

White House watchers are in constant suspense. They never know what weird decision or what whacko statement will pop up next. It’s like a detective story or an action film that keeps you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out the motives and work out the aims. The examples are numerous, but the strangest — and most dangerous so far — is Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. 

It might be logical to start with an analysis of the motives behind the decision and then proceed to the attendant legal and political considerations. Instead, however, I will go straight to the conclusion: the UN Security Council should declare the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. This resolution would be consistent with international law, UN resolutions, human rights and all other humanitarian considerations. 

As for why Trump made that decision, the opinions are many and diverse. The most common and most probable is that his popularity has sunk so low that he needed to shore up support among certain groups. Not least of these is the Zionist lobby and the weapons industry mafia. He must also have wanted to create a stir that would distract attention from the Russian-links investigations that are closing in on him and that could lead to his impeachment. It is almost certainly no coincidence that his decision regarding Jerusalem occurred within 48 hours of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s agreement to turn state’s witness in these investigations. Trump has already launched a counterattack and accused Flynn of lying and feeding misleading information to Vice President Pence. Trump, through his decision, also sought to buy some approval from Democrats in the House of Representatives after Representative Al Green submitted a motion for an impeachment resolution in the House. The president got what he paid for. The bill was voted down an hour after he announced his decision and Pence delivered a speech praising Israel and US relations with it.

Some analysts suggest that with the decline of terrorist organisations and the impending defeat of the Islamic State group, Washington had to come up with another means to cause upheaval in the Middle East in pursuit of the overall design to weaken and fragment this region. To this possibility one can add the fact that recently concluded Palestinian reconciliation, which Egypt brokered, has Israel and Washington worried. Something had to be done to weaken the Palestinian position and the Arab world. The answer was a decision that would ignite controversy and discord in the Arab world. If that was the thinking, it didn’t work.

Some Americans believe that one of the forces that drives Trump’s extremism is a Zionist offshoot called Christian Zionism. Christian Zionism is a fringe sect that believes that the Judaicisation of Jerusalem will bring the resurrection of Christ. It is similar to a sect in Iraq that believes that the Judaicisation of Jerusalem will bring the re-emergence of the Mahdi.

Some analysts say that while Trump knew that his decision would infuriate Arab and Islamic countries he had no idea that he would also anger Christians around the world. His aides scrambled to concoct excuses. Trump has no experience in international politics and no diplomatic finesse, they said. He didn’t know that Jerusalem is an Arab city and that its name derives from the Arabic, “Dar Al-Salam” — House of Peace. He’s a businessman who operates on profit/loss calculations as they affect him. The apologies are worse than the offence and make it even worse. 

As the furore heightened, White House officials came out to say that the president’s decision was in the interests of the US. The claim is dangerously misleading. The president’s decision not only exposed the American people to the possibility of various forms of boycott, it was a virtual invitation to terrorist attacks. 

If, as Trump’s aides claim, Trump did not recognise Jerusalem but merely “recognised” a decision that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, they are misleading the American public again. Congressional decisions, if that is what they are referring to, have no legal standing in international law. Normally, any country has the right to determine where its own capital is. No other country has the right to intervene in the matter. But Israel is not a normal country. It was established by virtue of a UN resolution and the Security Council is responsible for regulating questions concerning matters of legitimacy and status. The Partition Resolution, 181 of 1947, and UN Security Council resolutions 194, 2253 and 252 among others make the legal status of Jerusalem very clear. It is an occupied territory. No measures should be taken to endanger it or alter its character and its fate should be determined by agreement between the two sides of the conflict.

These resolutions were approved by all nations, including the US. In fact, in 1969, its own ambassador to the UN affirmed that Jerusalem, like the rest of the occupied territories, was subject to the rules of international law concerning occupied territories and that Israel did not have the right to make in changes in the laws or administration of the city. The US reiterated this position in exchanges of letters on the Camp David agreement and numerous times since. Trump tossed all that to the winds. In so doing he jeopardised US interests. He made his country a byword for the failure to respect international law, agreements and conventions. 

The US’s friends and allies are trying to convince Trump to retract his disastrous decision. The recent UN Security Council session bore vivid testimony to the US’s isolation. It occasioned a global demonstration of opposition to Trump’s move and it underscored the international community’s commitment to the two-state solution and the principle that the fate of Jerusalem can only be determined through negotiations between the two sides. The US floundered as it tried to defend its actions with the feeblest arguments. It praised Israel, but Israel per se is not the issue. It tried to point its finger in other directions, criticising the UN or condemning other countries for not respecting human rights. It was a pitiful performance that only brought further disgrace on Washington. The US, which claims to seek peace and fight terrorism, lit the fuse that set fire to the West Bank and ignited perpetual anger and chaos everywhere else.

The question now is, what next?

Firstly, pressure needs to be brought to bear on the US to compel it to either retract the decision or modify it to conform with international law, and to halt all steps towards relocating its embassy to Jerusalem.

Secondly, the UN Security Council should pass a resolution condemning the Trump position and calling on all member states not to move their embassies to Jerusalem.

Thirdly, the Arab League should adopt a resolution recognising the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Its retraction of that resolution would be contingent on Trump’s retraction of his.

The best solution of all, of course, would be for the Security Council to adopt a resolution recognising a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. The international climate needs such a resolution, which should have been adopted long ago. International conscience requires such a resolution, not just out of fairness to the Palestinian people who have suffered far too long in their wait for justice, but also in order to avert the dangerous consequences of Trump’s decision that will stifle hopes for peace and compel the American people to pay a heavy price.

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