Sun, Dec 10, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Donald Trump versus peace in the Middle East

In naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel, the Trump government clearly plans to dictate an Israeli version of peace with the Palestinians, rather than guide the two sides toward an equitable agreement

By Daoud Kuttab

In a matter of three weeks, the US government has attacked the Palestinian people on three fronts.

First, on Nov. 17, US President Donald Trump’s administration announced its decision, which was subsequently reversed, to close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s diplomatic office in Washington DC.

Then, on Tuesday, the US Congress voted unanimously to adopt the Taylor Force Act, which blocks aid to the Palestinian National Authority from 2018 to 2024, unless it stops paying monthly salaries and other benefits to the families of killed or convicted Palestinian militants.

However, it was the third attack, which came the following day, that will prove most devastating to efforts to achieve peace.

In defiance of overwhelming global opposition, not to mention past UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, Trump announced that the US will officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The message is clear: The Trump administration is determined to dictate the Israeli version of peace with the Palestinians, rather than to mediate an equitable agreement between the two sides.

Of course, that is not how Trump’s administration presents it. As the New York Times reported just before the announcement, Trump administration officials believe the decision, which entails moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, could actually hasten the peace process, “by removing a source of ambiguity from the American position.”

After all, they point out, the embassy question comes up every six months, when the president has to sign a new waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv — a process that, from their perspective, repeatedly stokes political tension.

In his address on the topic, Trump reiterated this argument. Officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he asserted, “is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement.”

He also claimed that the decision “is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement,” one “that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.”

However, in that same speech, Trump betrayed the superiority he ascribes to Israel: “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital.”

Despite its best efforts, Palestine, of course, is not recognized as a sovereign state by the US. So, far from seeking a fair peace deal between the two parties, Trump has effectively declared victory for Israel — and instructed the Palestinians to accept defeat quietly.

Yet the Palestinians have displayed a profound capacity for resistance. Just last summer, when the Israeli government decided unilaterally to install metal detectors at the entrances of al-Haram al-Sharif, which includes the al-Aqsa mosque, Palestinians demonstrated outside the mosque for two weeks, forcing the Israelis to reverse the decision.

Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is a far more powerful symbolic move, suggesting that it could spur even more formidable resistance — and not just from the 300,000 Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem, or even from the more than 12 million Palestinians around the world.

What Trump’s administra-

tion fails to recognize is that Jerusalem — the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina — is not just an Israeli-Palestinian issue; all of the world’s 350 million Arabs and 1.5 billion Muslims have a direct and vital stake in it.

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