Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has created a worldwide uproar. Protest demonstrations have been held in all parts of the Muslim world as well in Europe and elsewhere. Turkish President Erdogan has echoed the Muslim world’s sentiments, threatening to cut off diplomatic ties with Israel. To quote him, “Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims… We implore the US once again. You cannot take this step.” Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Saudi King Salman, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas all have condemned the new US move and said unilateral steps on Jerusalem would derail the fledgling US-led peace effort and unleash a new round of turmoil in the region with this blunder. Mahmoud Abbas has “warned of the dangerous consequences” such a decision would have on the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world.
Saudi King Salman has told the US president that “any American announcement regarding the situation of Jerusalem prior to reaching a permanent settlement will harm peace talks and increase tensions in the region”. Pakistan has also strongly criticized the US move. Words of condemnation have also come from Germany’s foreign minister and the European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini who has said “it’s in everyone’s interest that this [recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s new capital] does not happen.” Both leading Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have slammed the decision, with protests breaking out in the occupied territories.
The latest US decision or more rightly blunder to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has shattered all hopes of peace and stability in the region. A new round of bloody conflict can now be expected between Palestinians and Israelis. Extremist groups across the Arab world are going to react violently. There have been predictions of a ‘third intifada’ being launched. The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in the Arab-Israel conflict. Since Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Palestinians have been fighting against the Israeli occupation. Almost all the Palestinian territory is now encircled by a growing network of Jewish settlements, cutting the residents off from what has remained of the West Bank.
Needless to say, the appeasement of Israel through Trump’s “Jerusalem gift” has created a highly explosive situation and a blunder by Trump. It adds to the long list of blunders that the world’s sole superpower has committed in the Middle East in recent years. While there is not much room for optimism in the present circumstances, there is still hope that the global community may succeed in pressuring the US to revisit this highly unwise move. If not corrected, it may cause a lot of suffering. The occupied territories are brimming with discontent. For the Palestinians, Jerusalem is a city central to their culture and identity. They will not sit idle if it is snatched from them.