Palestinian, Arab distress at Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital 

Shahenda El-Naggar
6 Min Read

US President Donald Trump could move forward with an unprecedented move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday, as he vowed when still a presidential candidate to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

A congressional decision named the Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed in 1995, mandates the embassy’s move. However, US presidents may sign a waiver every six months postponing the move. Trump did not announce a decision on whether he will sign the waiver, despite Monday being the second deadline since he took office.

Fatah member and political analyst Ayman Rigib told Daily News Egypt that delaying the signing does not mean Trump would not go through with it.

Rigib, political science professor at Al-Quds University, argued that Trump does not want to go back on his promise. “I would expect that he will proceed with moving the embassy to Jerusalem within two months,” he said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asserted that such a move would kill the peace process. He had started contacting world leaders on Saturday to rally support against the possible Washington move. According to Palestinian news agency WAFA,  Abbas spoke to the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Tunisia, Turkey, and France.

The Arab League strongly warned against the move. Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit released a statement saying that “taking such action is not justified. It will not serve peace or stability, but will fuel extremism and resort to violence. It only benefits one side; the Israeli government that is hostile to peace.”

Trump has stated several times that no one is as pro-Israel as he is. The move is seen as a complete deviation from the US’ traditional attempts to be a peace negotiator in the decades-old crisis.

Mohamed Kamal, professor of political science at Cairo University, told Daily News Egypt that if Trump recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he will undermine US credibility as a peace negotiator, adding that the US State of Department raised concerns of backlash effects.

Jordan and Egypt voiced their concerns to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. However, Ahmed Yousef, professor of political science at Cairo University and director of the Research Institute of Arab Studies, stated that Arab states are not prepared to counter such a decision.

“The Arab states should have been pressuring the US during this last period while they were studying the decision,” Yousef told Daily News Egypt.

Rigib also expressed disappointment at the “weak reaction of Arab states,” adding that he would not expect important action from the international community. “It is up to the Palestinian people to counter the decision, the Arab League’s role is secondary,” he explained.

Since former US President Bill Clinton signed the 1995 law declaring Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, succeeding US administrations were free to decide the approval or rejection of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and have been avoiding to pass such law. Three consecutive presidents have since waived it every six months.

When Trump took office, he followed the same footsteps when he faced the first deadline in June. Nevertheless, Trump affirmed that he did not forget his campaign promise in an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, saying, “I want to give [peace] a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem.”

“This step, if taken, means a violation of international laws which deem Jerusalem an occupied city,” Hamas movement said in a Sunday statement on their website. Political bureau leader Ismail Haniyeh stated that “dangerous US trends would constitute the beginning of frightening changes in the region,” and that Palestinians will defend their lands.

The US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital violates several UN resolutions, explained Yousef, asking, “the Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 prohibited the occupation of east Jerusalem,  so how come all of Jerusalem should become Israel’s capital?”

On Thursday, 151 states voted in favour of a draft Jerusalem resolution at the UN General Assembly. “By that text, the assembly reiterated that any actions by Israel, the occupying power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem were illegal and therefore null and void,” a UN press release said.

Yet, Yousef argued that there had been enough UN resolutions adopted aimed at liberating Palestine. “But they are never implemented; the most powerful party prevails,” he concluded.

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