The Trump administration has finally delivered on something that the US Congress had been insisting on for a while — that the US embassy in Israel move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move has been greeted with muted condemnation by governments of Muslim countries. Israel’s closest ally in the region, Saudi Arabia didn’t even bother to openly condemn, it just expressed mild regret about the decision. Pakistan just went with a clichéd statement; that the embassy move was a violation of international law. Islamabad then went a step further and ‘deeply regretted’ that its advice on not moving the embassy wasn’t heeded. The secret romance between the Pakistani establishment and Saudi Arabia and then between the Saudi Royal family and the Israeli right has evidently taken the wind out of our concerns for the liberation of Al-Quds and justice for the Palestinians.
The above notwithstanding, the US embassy move is going to have short term consequences for the so called peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the long term consequences for the very Zionist character of the State of Israel. The Israeli right has delusions of ruling over all of occupied Palestinian territories into perpetuity, and somehow chipping away at Palestinian resistance through brute force. Not very different from our jihadis’ and military’s fantasies of taking over Kashmir by force. By moving the US embassy, Donald Trump has put the American stamp of approval on the illegal occupation of Jerusalem by Israel, and on the Israeli Zionist vision of never letting go of the occupied Al-Quds and the rest of the occupied territories.
Consonant with international law, the US had always maintained that the Israeli occupation of the territories it occupied after the 1967 war was illegal. It had accordingly also held on to the vision of a two state solution whereby the Palestinians will have a state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip next to Israel. The peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis, that had been ushered by the 1994 Oslo Accord was premised upon this assumption. Israel’s building of settlements, appropriation of Palestinians’ water resources, and building of the separation wall on the West bank, has made the formation of a viable Palestinian state in the occupied territories a geographical impossibility. The US never practically raised a finger to prevent the Israelis from undermining the premise of the two state solution, or perpetuate its occupation in violation of international law. And now by moving its embassy, the US has accepted that the two state solution is dead and that Israeli occupation is a here to stay.
Israel’s building of settlements, appropriation of Palestinians’ water resources, and building of the separation wall on the West bank, has made the formation of a viable Palestinian state in the occupied territories a geographical impossibility
The US’ tacit legitimisation of the right wing Israeli vision of a greater Israel, including the West Bank and tangentially the Gaza Strip, in the long run is likely to undermine the very foundational myth of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. If Israel holds on to the occupied territories, by 2050, according to respected Israeli demographers, Jews will constitute 37% of the population of such a greater Israel. The Israelis know this reality and are petrified by it. The Israeli right may have a vision of an apartheid state sustained by its overwhelming military might. But Israelis knows in their heart that such a state of affairs is not viable. Holding on to the occupied territories will be the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Some progressive Israelis and Palestinians, not many, but some have also put forward a different vision of a truly secular one state, where Jews and Palestinians live as equal citizens, in peace. The progressive Israelis that I know argue that the only state in the world where in the 21st century Jewish life is threatened for being Jewish, is Israel. So much for a refuge. They also argue that the Israeli nation building process is based upon denial of rich Jewish history and heritage rooted in many cultures and civilisations — from Poland, to Yemen, to Iran, to Germany, to Russia, to Morocco, to name a few. The Sephardic eastern Jews in particularly resent the occlusion of their historical experience and culture in the dominant European Jewish national narrative of Israel.
Progressive Palestinians too recognise that two state solution will always leave the future Palestinian state in a dependent position vis-à-vis Israel, just by the facts of geography. They too argue that Palestinian history has been that of a multi-religious polity that can be recognised in a truly secular state. Donald Trump with his moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem, may have unwittingly endorsed that vision. In my mind, this is not such a bad outcome after all.
The writer is a reader in Politics and Environment at the Department of Geography, King’s College, London. His research includes water resources, hazards and development geography. He also publishes and teaches on critical geographies of violence and terror
Published in Daily Times, December20th 2017.