The establishment of US Embassy in Jerusalem: kicking the hornet’s nest

Israel is not only illegally occupying East Jerusalem but also controlling its education system by taking control over the private schools where Palestinian students are being forced to study the curriculum developed by the Israeli government

Presently, the whole Middle East is going through tumultuous times and at this crucial juncture, Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Questions arise whether this development will incite the anger amongst Muslim countries and further escalate tension in the Middle East region or not? Firstly, the US declaration has signified that Donald Trump has no idea of foreign policy relations or international affairs as this policy would result in the isolation of US. After Mr Trump became president, political experts did not have high expectations from him and such blunders were anticipated. Needless to say, a lunatic person has got nothing to do with anything which deals with rationality and prudence. The question also arises about whether Mr Donald Trump took this decision on its own or after consultation from his secretary of state and other advisors?

Obviously, the person who would have guided Donald Trump to take this decision would have been his Middle East advisor, Gerard Kushner. Kushner also runs a foundation which provides a funding for Jewish settlements in West Bank. The establishment of US embassy in Jerusalem and recognising it as capital is a decision taken on part of US administration in the light of Jerusalem Embassy Act 1995, but subsequently every US president would defer its enforcement due to the contagious effects it could ensue upon the Middle East as the city of Jerusalem is considered equally sacred for Jews, Christians as well as Muslims.

After conferring Jerusalem the status of capital city of Israel, the cause of Palestinians would be jeopardised. In 1947, the UN general assembly passed a resolution to partition the state of Palestine state into two: one for the Jewish people and the other for the Arabs. In 1948, the war fought between the Israel and the Arabs resulted in getting control by Israel over West Jerusalem whereas East Jerusalem still remained under the control of Jordan. In 1967, the war against the Arab world areas of Sinai Peninsula, Golan heights, West Bank and East Jerusalem, were annexed by Israel. In my view at that time, the US was not in a position to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel because it needed the support of the Arab world against the communist regime of Soviet Union and America was also engaged in a war with Vietnam.

Israel is not only illegally occupying East Jerusalem but also controlling its education system by taking control over the private schools where Palestinian students are being forced to study the curriculum developed by the Israeli government. This is done to indoctrinate the young students. This measure would also constitute a blatant violation of international law as well as United Nations Security Council Resolution 478 of 1980.Already the international court of justice in 2004 has declared the Israeli occupation Palestinian lands illegal. In my view, the decision of the US President would sidestep decades of global consensus on this issue, undermine regional peace and security and derail any prospects for lasting peace. The decision of transferring the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a nightmare for the Palestinians, which would intensify the current political scenario especially Middle-Eastern politics.

This is the reason that global leaders from across the world, including French president Macaron, Turkey’s President Erdogan and many leaders belonging to EU and Saudi Arabia condemned the decision made by the US president as all the leaders demonstrated that this measure would entail catastrophic consequences in the future. The world at large already considers Trump a goof and a self-centred man and at present in America there is an on-going debate whether the president should have a say on the country’s nuclear programme or can make any decision pertaining to nukes?

In my view, the decision of the US President would sidestep decades of global consensus on this issue, undermine regional peace and security and derail any prospects for lasting peace

The establishment of the US embassy in Jerusalem has sent jitters to the Arab countries. For the Arab world, the American administration’s decision is tantamount to transferring control to Israel of Jerusalem, which is considered to be the second most sacred city in the Islamic world. At this crucial juncture, this is an opportunity for the Islamic world to unite and converge in its goals and if it happens then hopefully in the future the importance of Organisation of Islamic countries (OIC) would increase manifold.

Obviously, Israel’s government headed by Netanyahu would be jubilant about this decision. And once again there is a likelihood that Israel would commence its action of establishing Jewish settlements in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, for Palestinians, USA’s measure of establishing an embassy is a stab in the back because Al-Aqsa mosque is situated in Jerusalem and is the third holiest site in Islam. Muslims believe that Muhammad (PBUH) was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to Al-Aqsa during the night journey. The question also arises: what would be the reaction of Hezbollah? After defeating ISIS in Syria in collaboration with Iran, the morale of Hezbollah is sky-high.

Russia would also benefit from the increasingly hostile — scenario in Middle Eastern politics as its arm sales to Muslim countries is also likely to increase in the current situation.

Thirty years ago, Palestinians began a mass uprising against Israeli occupation and it was known as the first intifada. The first intifada ended in 1993.In 1993, the Oslo accord was a genuine effort to bring both Israel and PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) into talks and both the parties recognised each other to initiate a dialogue and resolve the issue. This did not last long. Then again, the second intifada began in year 2000 and resulted in the killing of hundreds of Palestinians. So now the stage is set for the third intifada, it is a do-or-die situation for the Palestinians as they know that they would be permanently barred from having access to the Al-Aqsa mosque. It remains to be seen whether Trump would actually transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem or would back-off after re-considering its decision by understanding its domino effect.

It was the Balfour declaration in 1917 that laid the foundation for establishing a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. Presently, America is committed to supporting Israel and vows to defend it against any foreign aggression. Israel is a close ally of the US and it will never remove its illegal settlements in the West Bank. The recent step of and the recent shifting the embassy to Jerusalem will aggravate the situation in Gaza.

 

The writer is a constitutional and human rights lawyer

Published in Daily Times, December 12th 2017.