The U.S. policy towards the Middle East has been the major concern for the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government for the past two months. The pledge to move the embassy to Jerusalem has been immensely debated in mainstream media, and social media. Foreign policy experts, politicians and diplomats expressed their worries. Trump's policy in the Middle East, notably the Arab-Israeli conflict is damaging and seemingly ending the possibility of peaceful settlement in the region. Trump's policy could be the last nail in the two-states solution. Since the occupation of the East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and the West Bank, only two countries (Costa Rica and El Salvador) had embassies in Jerusalem until 2006, when they moved back to Tel Aviv. Since the beginning of the last century, the US policy is in line with the international community regarding Jerusalem. All have agreed that the fate of Jerusalem must be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Arabs. The UN partition plan of Palestine placed Jerusalem as Corpus Separatum, and not as part of the Arab or Jew state. In 1948 (establishment of Israel and the Palestinian Nakba), Israel had control over the western part of the city, while Jordan took control on the Eastern part. In 1967, Israel captured East Jerusalem, annexing it in 1980, officially. However, no country recognized Jerusalem as a part of Israel.
In 1995, the Congress issued a bill (Jerusalem Embassy Act) to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem no later than May 1999. However, most of the previous American presidents had recognized the sensitivity of Jerusalem. They (Clinton, Bush, Obama) invoked the executive waiver, stating that it was not in the American national interest to move the embassy. The other important fact is that since 1993, the American consulate in Jerusalem represents the diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Authority. It is the mission that deals with all the Palestinians from visa application, Programs, to educational scholarships. Further, the official meetings between the Palestinian officials and their American counterparts are held in East Jerusalem at the premises of the consulate. It is indirect recognition of East Jerusalem of being a territory for the Palestinians.
Amidst these unpredictable Trump's executive orders, the Palestinian leaderships are trying to advocate many countries in order to nullify trump's pledge to relocate the embassy. For instance, Abbas met with King Abdulla of Jordan. They issued a joint statement, confirming that Jordan and the Palestinian Authority will take strong measures if the US embassy moved to Jerusalem, stressing that the whole region will be affected. Seemingly, King Abdulla and other Muslim leaders have spoken to the American administration. Later, the Whitehouse stated that the talk about moving the embassy is still in the early stages. This suggests that Trump is putting off the issue of moving the embassy to Jerusalem, considering that he did not mention it in his inauguration speech and will be meeting king of Jordan the next week. However,the Palestinian leadership's reaction was strong enough to question the seriousness and capacity of the Palestinian Authority, and Abbas to put their threats into action. Saeb Erikat, the secretary-general of the Palestinian liberation Organization (PLO) said that relocating the American Embassy to Jerusalem will destroy any prospect for peace. Mohammed Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian negotiator, said the Palestinian Authority could revoke its recognition of Israel, a move that would likely precipitate a third intifada, or Palestinian uprising. For the Palestinian leadership, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem will have disastrous consequences that may bury the already dead peace process.
If Trump decided to move the embassy to Jerusalem, the US will be the only country to have an embassy in Jerusalem, will be standing against the international community and the UN long-standing resolutions. The consequences of moving the embassy to Jerusalem will be a grave to Israel, the Palestinians, the Americans and the region. For the Americans, they risk portraying themselves as a broker for the peace process in Middle East. Moreover, they are delivering a loud message that the US is not interested anymore in establishing a Palestinian state live side by side with Israel. The Palestinians who had no trust in the Palestinian authority, and its forces will act individually in what could be a new serious and lengthy wave of violence as a reaction to the miscalculated move. Considering the holiness of Jerusalem to the Muslims across the world, American interests could be a target in many places across the globe. It simply empowers Muslim radicals and extremists and their narratives that the US is a legitimate target. Dangerously, the move will recognize the occupation and legitimize. It is an unprecedented act. Simply, it says that Israel is the only and one states on this land, and it is not anymore an occupied territory. Recently, on December 23rd, the UNSC resolution (2334) condemns Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, considering it occupied territories. UNSC 2334 resolution is a message sent from Obama to Netanyahu, and probably to Trump as well that US foreign policy regarding Middle East has some redlines, including settlements and Jerusalem.
Since Trump won the elections, Israeli radicals, far-right politicians have taken his victory (considering his tweets), as a sign that the American administration will not condemn any Israeli policy or violation of international law, including settlements' expansion. In the recent weeks, more than Israeli politician suggested annexing the West Bank. Last week, Israel approved a plan to build 2,500 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, two days after it accepted building permits for more than 500 settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem. Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the hard-line Jewish Home party told the Ynet news site “Palestine will be taken off the agenda." He repeated his call for Israel to annex most of the West Bank, which would destroy any hope for a two-state solution.
It seems that the new US administration is shifting from the long-standing policy, allying completely, with Israeli government, and abandoning a two-state solution. This will make US allies (specially EU) have more responsibilities towards the Middle East, considering that US is not anymore a peace broker in the region. Recently, the EU asserted that it stands by the two-states solution . Russia, China and almost all other countries are backing the two-state solution, pressing to end the occupation. However, if they face the US new policy toward the ME peace process, there is a high probability to start shifting from the current stands (two states) to call for new solution, which is one-state solution. Looking at these facts, Israel and the current US administration seems to act as single body. The nomination of the far-right political views, David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer, as the US ambassador to Israel created a sense of anger and laughs at the same time. Friedman himself can serve as Israel's ambassador to the US since he shares far-right Zionist views such as opposition to Palestinian state, and he supports to Israeli's settlements in the West Bank. By appointing Friedman as US ambassador, the long standing US position to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will be definitely questioned by all partners including EU, Russia, quartet committee, China and the Arab States.
In an odd diplomatic act, Donald Trumps introduced his son-in-law as his envoy to Middle East peace process. Kushner not only lacks experience on the Middle East, but almost unknown to Israeli politician, and an even greater mystery to the Palestinians, as well as a diplomatic neophyte. The Israeli Newspaper, Haartz reported that Kushner's name was listed (and then removed) in a website that raises money for the Israeli army. The question to be asked here, is how Mr. Kushner will be an honest broker for peace? Moving the embassy to Jerusalem means that the US recognizes it as Israeli territories, and not occupied territories as the UN states and all countries have consensus on. Letting Israel annex the Palestinian land, and imposing unfair and unjust laws will undermine the whole peace and Palestinian state paradigm.
In conclusion, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and selecting Kushner as ME envoy, in miscounted steps, is absolute and immediate legitimization of the occupation. It is empowering extremists and far-right Zionists such as Netanyahu and Bennit who have no interests in peace. They will annex more lands from the Palestinians, murdering the hope of a viable Palestinian state. The direct result is one-state for both Arab Palestinian and Jew.
(Photo credit: GPO)