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Jerusalem lost

Updated December 08, 2017

DONALD Trump is not a man known for his visionary foreign policy or global statesmanship.

The US president has, in the short period he has occupied the White House, made some incendiary decisions and statements that have threatened to upend the international order. These include his intention to torpedo the widely acclaimed Iran nuclear deal, as well as threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea from the floor of the UN General Assembly.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump added another dubious feather to his cap by issuing a fiat on one of the most divisive, and sensitive, global issues of the modern age: the status of Jerusalem.

Overturning decades of American policy regarding the holy, and contested, city, Mr Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He also said preparations were under way to shift the American embassy from Tel Aviv to what the Arabs refer to as Al Quds.

With this decision, not only has the US president disregarded global opinion on the matter — the UN secretary general has led the criticism — and brushed aside the advice of some of America’s closest allies, in one fell swoop, Mr Trump has also legitimised five decades of Israeli occupation.

The US leader has played to a very narrow gallery here — the Israelis, the American religious right as well as the pro-Israel lobby in Washington, that powerful group whose ‘blessings’ every politician in the US desirous of high office seeks.

The rest of the world, meanwhile, has been highly critical of the move, led by the Palestinians. Both leading Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have slammed the decision, with protests breaking out in the occupied territories. The reaction from Arab and Muslim capitals, as well as other states, has also been highly critical.

Explore: In pictures — Outpour of anger in Palestine as Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israeli capital

While Palestinians have rued the day Israel was created in 1948 and they were doomed to a seemingly permanent exile from their native land, Jerusalem’s status as an occupied city has been accepted by almost the entire global community ever since Israel grabbed it in 1967. Al Quds lies at the heart of Palestinian identity and for the US to ‘gift’ the contested city to Israel is almost certain to doom the two-state solution.

As per the 1993 peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem was to be resolved mutually. That agreement, it seems, no longer holds.

So what now? While Israeli leaders have been gloating over the move, the occupied territories are brimming with discontent. There have been many predictions of a ‘third intifada’ being launched; this reckless move by the US leader may well be the spark that gives birth to this uprising. Humiliated by Israel for decades and treated in a subhuman manner, now the Palestinians are seeing a city central to their culture and identity being snatched away from them.

While there is not much room for optimism, perhaps the global community can pressure the US to revisit this highly unwise and dangerous move.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2017