President Donald Trump’s “unilateral” decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel could have wide-ranging ramifications that have the possible ingredients to trigger off a third world war. Jerusalem is at the core of the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian talks and is considered sacred by Christians, Jews and Muslims. Conscious that the announcement would escalate tension around the globe, Pope Francis has asked for status quo to be maintained. It is evident that the “political” decision described by the White House as, “recognition of reality and the right thing to do” has invited criticism from both the foes and friends of the US government, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that Trump’s action was “historic, courageous and just”.
There have been protests within the United States as well and a large number of people who have a dim view of their President have accused him of succumbing to “greed and pressure from the Evangelists and the Jews”. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who along with Jason Greenblatt was engaged in pushing forward the peace process, finds himself at the receiving end following the notification, which took everyone by surprise. It is obvious that the Kushner-Greenblatt driven initiative would have received a serious setback.
The decision has the potential of uniting the Islamic world, and therefore, could endanger American interests in the region, as well as pose a threat to the safety and security of its citizens, given that the Hezbollah and many other organisations have already called for a new Palestinian Intifada (Uprising). The Iranian leadership has condemned the move in the strongest terms and its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has categorically stated that Muslims would under no circumstances accept aggression against their holy sites, including Quds (Jerusalem). Both Trump and the Israeli leadership are modern day Pharaohs, who have launched a US and Zionist-Driven move to crush the sentiments of the people, he maintained.
What has come as a shock to the international community is that Trump did not take his key European allies such as British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel into confidence. All three of them have distanced themselves from the declaration, and May has minced no words in commenting that the announcement “would be most unhelpful in terms of prospects of peace in the region”. Macron and Merkel find the matter to be “regrettable”.
The question that arises: why has Trump done what his predecessors were ever reluctant to do? Even after promising to shift the capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, past US Presidents perhaps, comprehended with clarity the serious fall-out of such a commitment. Thus their adherence to the United Nations stance was to make the situation conducive for the furtherance of the ongoing peace process.
Trump’s supporters have argued that he could not have indefinitely sat on his promise when little progress was visible in the peace talks held during the regimes of previous Presidents. He had his domestic compulsions and those who unconditionally supported him, were propelled by their revulsion for Muslims, which is reflected by many decisions taken by the present administration during its nearly eleven-month tenure.
Trump’s advisers are apparently also hoping that once Netanyahu is gratified with the US declaration, he could be persuaded to extend concessions for the Palestinians, who have simultaneously been maintaining that the Eastern part of the holy city, sacrosanct to them, was non-negotiable. It is a gamble that necessarily may not work out, with chances of a fresh outbreak of violence and conflict in the region, which has left US allies such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Kuwait ducking for cover in view of the huge opposition to the move from their citizens as well.
Both China and Russia have been looking at the ramifications very closely. Chinese President Xi Jinping wants China to consolidate its economic foothold in the region, and the foreign office, has thus, expressed its deep concern. Russian President Vladimir Putin, sensing that the current crisis provided his country with an opportunity to enlarge its role, has declared that he was “willing to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, provided statehood is granted to the Palestinians who will base their capital in the eastern part of the city”.
The Israeli argument has been that Jerusalem for long has been the seat of power of their government. The Israeli Parliament (Knesset) and the Supreme Court, as well as many important government offices function from there. The official residences of the President and Prime Minister are also located in the city. In the past, embassies of several countries were in Jerusalem and it would not be an issue if the US moves its embassy there.
However, the US State Department, in an advisory, has alerted its embassies in several countries to upgrade their security arrangements and has cautioned its citizens to exercise heedfulness while travelling. The Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan has warned that the development would fan the fire that could engulf the whole of West Asia. A meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) has been convened next week in Istanbul to take stock of the alarming situation.
The United Nations is seized of the matter and could find itself helpless if Trump persists with his announcement. Turbulent times are here. Between us.