Notes from the front of 13-12-2017
Trump’s shift on Israel’s capital – widely condemned
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel represents a significant shift in US foreign policy. It is a violation of international law which recognises East Jerusalem is Palestinian territory that is has been under illegal Israeli occupation since 1967. It is a sharp departure from the internationally recognised basis for a two state solution, with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
There is some indication that Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel reflects his administration’s goal to reach an ‘ultimate deal’ or ‘deal of the century’ on Israel and Palestine, on terms that are acceptable to an expansionist and aggressive Israeli state and which only allow for the establishment of a weak and fragmented Palestinian ‘state’.
Last week a proposal from Saudi Arabia suggested that a peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestine could be achieved which the village of Abu Dis becoming the future capital of Palestine instead of East Jerusalem. This proposal, put forward by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, would see the Palestinians getting a non-contiguous state in the West Bank and Gaza strip over which they would only have partial sovereignty and the majority of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank would remain.
The immediate impact of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announcement of his intention to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was to greatly embolden Israel.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump’s announcement by saying: ‘This is a historic day… The president’s decision is an important step towards peace. For there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel. I call on all countries that seek peace to join the United States in recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And to move their embassies there.’
Since the announcement Israel has carried out a number of bombing raids on Gaza. Israel is also planning on expanding its illegal settlements in occupied Jerusalem with the building of 14,000 new housing units following Trump’s decision.
The Palestinians response to Trump’s decision was clear and forthright rejection and call for resistance. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that the decision has ended Washington’s historic role as the key sponsor for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He described Trump’s remarks as ‘violating international resolutions’ and were a ‘reward to Israel for denying agreements and defying international legitimacy that encourages it to continue the policy of occupation, settlement, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.’ He went on to say: ‘In close coordination with our friends from all over the world, we will remain a united front defending Jerusalem, peace and freedom and winning the rights of our people to end the occupation and achieve its national independence.’ Meanwhile Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has called for a ‘new intifada’ against Israel.
The US and Israel have found themselves internationally isolated in the wake of Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The European Union has rejected Netanyahu’s calls for European countries to follow Trump’s lead. EU Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has said that the EU remains committed to a two-state settlement for the Israelis and the Palestinians, with Jerusalem as the capital of both. French President Macron described the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as a ‘threat to peace.’
The Arab League condemned Trump’s move describing it as ‘dangerous and unacceptable.’
In Britain, leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: ‘Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including occupied Palestinian territory, is a reckless threat to peace. The British Government must condemn this dangerous act and work for a just and viable settlement of the conflict.’
This contrasts with Theresa May, who said the decision was ‘unhelpful to prospects for peace in the region’. Yet she then hoped that the White House would bring forward detailed proposals for an Israeli/Palestinian settlement, ignoring the fact that Trump’s declaration was the first detail of the Trump ‘peace’ plan. Shadow Foreign Minister, Emily Thornberry was right to state that Trump’s move had made the British Government look like ‘fools’, ‘weak’ and ‘entirely without influence’.