Unfolding America’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital
On 6th December, US President Donald Trump, in a planned media address, announced that the United States will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and has decided to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He continued his address saying that in 1995 the US Congress adopted the 'Jerusalem Embassy Act' to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and recognise the city as Israel's capital. He also added that for the last 20 years all American Presidents have resisted the move in hope of peace and now it's finally time to deliver on the promise. The move by Trump is a reversal of long term US policy of not recognising the captured territory of East Jerusalem as a part of Israel.
The city is a holy site for Christians, Jews and Muslims and in 1947, the UN passed a resolution to keep the city under international law considering its importance to the three Abrahamic religions. But over the years, it has become a reason for conflict between Israel and its neighbour Palestine - who also claims its stake over the eastern part of Jerusalem, often leading to violence and death of civilians and armed forces on both the sides.
Even though Israel is celebrating the move with Prime Minister Netanyahu calling it a 'historic landmark', the Palestinian side saw nationwide protests against the declaration. The Islamist group Hamas has called for abandoning peace efforts with its leader Ismail Haniyeh saying, 'we should call for and we should work on launching an intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the face of the Zionist enemy'. Although the announcement is not going to have an immediate change in the status of Jerusalem on ground, it will give Israel a boosted self-confidence and a heavier hand in asking the world for recognition of its control over the city.
The decision has led to intense clashes between the two sides making the situation in Jerusalem very tense. The Israelis and Palestinians have a bitter history of violent confrontations with both the sides resorting to violence several times before.
The situation is expected to get worse in the coming days and will cause greater damage to human lives and infrastructure in and around Jerusalem. The peace efforts will take a definite hit and the diplomatic ties between many countries and Israel are likely to get more strained.
The international community considers the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem illegal and does not recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The announcement is being seen as a blow to the international peace efforts going on for years to bring Israel and Palestine to the talking table. It met with fierce criticism from both the western and middle eastern parts of the world.
Several countries including Iraq, Turkey and Egypt have come in support of the Palestinians and said that the move is not in the best interest of stability and peace in the region. US' close allies Britain, France and Saudi Arabia have also warned against the decision. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted at suspending diplomatic ties with Israel if the announcement concretes into action. Other countries are also expected to adopt diplomatic efforts in their attempt to persuade Israel and hence the US in taking back the decision.
For the Palestinians, it’s the end of all hope of support from the United States and a big setback to their continued struggle to claim authority over what was captured by Israel in 1967. The only good news for Palestine is the enormous pressure that statements from world leaders is supposed to put on the US.
The EU has also come forward and issued joint statements condemning Trump's decision but we have to wait for a while to see if the statements convert into any diplomatic action from the bloc, like banning trade with Israeli businesses that operate from the captured territory. The UN Security Council has held emergency meetings and thrown its weight behind Palestine but the efforts to pass a resolution and dump the decision will go in vain because of the Veto enjoyed by the US.
The move can also upset the people in US, who already do not largely approve of their President's actions. Trump will likely lose further ground and standing in the international community. His first anniversary in White House in January 2018 will be marked by diplomatic tensions between him and rest of the world leaders.
Jerusalem’s complex international status has already pulled in many powerful stakeholders and will likely attract more attention from around the globe. The move will slow down the peace efforts and make things uncertain for Jerusalem, and for Palestine, who stares at a bleak future of winning back its lost territory and restoring the dignity of its citizens living there.
© 2017 Ashat Mehta