Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fallout from Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

On Dec. 6, 2017, President Trump announced that he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, something he had threatened to do at least since February. Palestinians chanted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" at immediate street protests in Gaza City and Rafah.

Seventy years ago, UN Resolution 181 recognized Jerusalem as an international city to be administered by the United Nations. The resolution never took effect due to the Arab-Israeli war that immediately followed, as a result of which Israel took the western part of Jerusalem and Jordan took the eastern part. Israel annexed more of Jerusalem in 1967 after the Six-Day War.

According to J Street, "no action or decision of the international community has superseded the 1947 resolution. The consensus view of the international community" has been that Jerusalem's status "can only be determined by the parties as a part of a resolution to the conflict." This changed with Trump's announcement on Dec. 6 which makes the US the only nation to affirm Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem.


In Gaza on Dec. 7, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the the U.S. policy "could only be confronted by a renewed intifada [violent uprising] against the occupation." Reaction was also felt throughout the region, as Iraq's foremost Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani said that U.S. announcement "hurt the feelings of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims.”

Generally, a mediator in any negotiation should not be perceived to have prejudged the outcome. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that this decision "discredited a bit the United States as an honest broker" and "makes it more difficult to play a role to relaunch a peace process."

Chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that "President Trump has delivered a message to the Palestinian people: the two-state solution is over," implying that he does not expect future negotiations to produce an independent state of Arab-majority Palestine that is separate from Jewish-majority Israel. "Now is the time to transform the struggle for one-state with equal rights for everyone living in historic Palestine, from the river to the sea." A single state of Israel-Palestine in which Palestinians had full voting rights has long seemed unattractive to Israel since it would shift the nation's demographics to be majority Arab.

Trump once said that a peace deal was "frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years," as he explained to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over lunch on May 3. "We believe Israel is willing, we believe you're willing, and if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal." He added that he would "do whatever is necessary" to mediate. The White House released a comment that "any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States or by any other nation. The Palestinians and Israelis must work together to reach an agreement that allows both peoples to live, worship, and thrive and prosper in peace." This outlook now seems to have dimmed.


An opinion poll of Israelis taken Dec. 13 by Smith Research for the Jerusalem Post found that a majority of both Jews (77 percent) and Arabs (69 percent) feel that the Trump administration is more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian.

Also on Dec. 13, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), consisting of the foreign ministers of 57 Muslim-majority nations, met in Istanbul to announce that they will recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and that, without further action from the UN Security Council, they will appeal to the UN General Assembly.

Analysis of past actions in the Trump administration

Without taking any real action — such as moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an act Trump said he will defer for six months — "he gets to declare victory on an issue important to some American Jews and evangelical voters," Howard Kurtz wrote for Fox News. Kurtz noted that Trump has made similar sweeping policy announcements while deliberately delaying their effects, such as his rejections of the existing Dreamers immigration program and the Iran nuclear deal.

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