Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1378, (25 -31 January 2018)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1378, (25 -31 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Trump’s imagination

Despite angry popular reaction over the recent decision by US President Donald Trump to recognise occupied East Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Egypt — that has maintained a close and strategic relation with the United States over more than 40 years — agreed to receive US Vice-President Mike Pence this week.

Egyptian-US relations are diverse and complicated. While several key aspects, such as fighting terrorism and military and economic cooperation, are likely to continue, one major disagreement that will be hard to overcome is that over Jerusalem and the extremely dangerous bias of the current US administration towards Israel.

For decades, consecutive US presidents have sought to maintain the appearance of relative neutrality in order to be able to claim the role of “honest broker” in the volatile Arab-Israeli conflict. Trump’s decision on occupied East Jerusalem has ended any appearance of neutrality, along with the US role as a possible mediator in the peace process.

Pence, a well-known, hard-line Israel supporter over religious grounds, would be deceiving himself and the American people if he believed that he could sell Egyptians, Arabs, Muslims and all those who support the right of the Palestinian people to independence and self-determination the latest irresponsible decision by Trump on occupied Jerusalem.

In his visits to Egypt and Jordan, Pence maintained that Washington was “absolutely committed to preserving the status quo with regard to holy sites in Jerusalem”, and alleged that the Trump administration has not changed its position on the “final resolution about boundaries or other issues that will be negotiated”.

Indeed, many Arab governments are keen to maintain good relations with the United States, but they are not foolish, and cannot fool their people who have completely lost trust in the current US administration. What could be more biased relative to thorny final status issues than unilaterally announcing that Washington recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital alone?

All previous US presidents have refrained from taking Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, despite the decision by Congress in 1995 to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city, simply because they recognised that this would be the end of the peace process. The US decision also violates repeated UN Security Council resolutions stressing that Israel must withdraw from all Arab territories it occupied by force following the 5 June 1967 War.

And to add salt to the wound, Trump’s administration also decided to cut down by half its contribution to UNRWA, the UN agency that has been working with already meagre resources to meet the bare minimum of basic needs for millions of Palestinian refugees over decades, scattered among refugee camps in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. To increase pressure on the weakened and bankrupt Palestinian Authority, Trump also threatened to close down the Palestine Liberation Organisation mission in Washington.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas decided not to meet with Pence, simply because there was nothing left to talk about in light of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem and the other punitive measures taken against his authority. That was the same decision taken by Egypt’s Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb and the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II.

Both Imam Al-Tayeb and Pope Tawadros truly reflected the feelings of Egyptians, Arabs, Muslims and all peoples who support the justice of the Palestinian cause, and the urgent need to end the inhumane, racist Israeli occupation.

In a conference organised by Al-Azhar and sponsored by President Al-Sisi this week, Imam Al-Tayeb stressed that “such arrogant decisions (by Trump) that contradict the historically unquestionable facts will not change anything on the ground. Jerusalem is an Arab, Islamic and Palestinian city. These facts are neither erased by such reckless decisions nor changed by unjust prejudices.”
He also declared 2018 as the “Year of Jerusalem,” pledging to use all means to assure Arabs, Muslims and supporters of the Palestinian people that the occupation of the holy city will never be tolerated.

The measures taken by Trump — including the unilateral deal he has reportedly been working on, and would force on the Palestinians — will certainly fail. Trump believes that when he takes unilateral decisions on Jerusalem, refugees and all thorny final status issues, that would simply end the Palestinian cause. But as long as Palestinians, Egyptians, Arabs, Muslim and a majority of peace loving nations reject such imaginary plans by Trump, it will simply not work.

It would be more useful for Trump to work on solving his own domestic problems, to save his own presidency, rather than imagining that he can improve his domestic standing at the expense of Jerusalem and Palestinian rights.

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