By Arab News
By Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor*
Almost all of America’s closest allies had cautioned US President Donald Trump against recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, warning of potentially grave repercussions. France, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Turkey have all urged him to reconsider. Senior US officials are said to disagree with his decision. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sounds less than enthusiastic.
Last week, 151 UN member states voted in favor of a resolution condemning Israel’s claim to an undivided Jerusalem; only six countries voted against.
A new poll conducted by the University of Maryland found that 63 percent of Americans oppose relocating the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb appealed to him not to proceed, but on Wednesday, Trump defied the international community. What he has done is akin to a doctor saying, “Don’t worry, you will soon be well” as he injects his patient with a lethal poison.
His announcement was insulting. He praised Israel to the hilt as “one of the most successful democracies in the world” where “Jews, Muslims, and Christians — and people of all faiths — are free to live and worship according to their conscience and according to their beliefs.”
Tell that to the Palestinians barred from the Al-Haram Al Sharif. Tell that to the families whose homes have been demolished and whose lands have been stolen.
His couched message to Arabs was to respond to his decision “with reasoned debate, not violence” and “to expel extremists from their midst.” Does he not realize that this has just ramped up extremism by killing all hope of there ever being a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital?
Hamas, which was open to reconciling with Fatah and had for the first time agreed to a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, has now announced that Trump has “opened the gates of hell.”
Iran and Hezbollah will tout this terrible news as a pretext for increased aggression. Islamist militants of all stripes may attack US interests. Mr. Trump knows this, which is why the Pentagon has dispatched US Marines to protect American embassies in the Middle East.
He will cite retaliatory acts of violence to justify his predominately anti-Muslim travel ban, anti-Islamic statements and to tighten his hug of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was quick to express the gratitude of the “Jewish State and the Jewish People” for Trump’s “act of political bravery.”
Trump has made a mockery of often-touted American values by blessing the illegal occupation of a city occupied during war.
Under international law, it is illegal for a country to seize land acquired by force. That flies in the face of the UN charter, the Fourth Geneva Convention and a slew of UN Security Council resolutions.
Article 55 of the Laws of War states: “The occupying state shall be regarded only as an administrator…” Thus, Israel has no legal right to claim Jerusalem as its capital and neither does the US.
Russian President Vladimir Putin could now take a leaf out of his American counterpart’s book to claim that Russia’s annexation of Crimea was morally just due to “realities on the ground,” the line Trump has taken to explain his motivation for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.
If an armed man breaks into someone’s home, kicks the rightful owners into the street and lives there with his wife, children and pet dog, no court would legitimize the theft on the grounds that the thief’s slippers under the bed signified a new reality.
Trump said the move is good for America but neglected to explain in which way. He did not because it is not.
The fact is the only person it benefits is the president himself, who can now assert that he kept his campaign promise.
Trump can also pat himself on the back for faithfully complying with the demands of his billionaire supporters, President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder and Netanyahu’s buddy Sheldon Adelson, who describes the Palestinians as “a made-up people.”
He has fulfilled his pledge to Evangelical Christian Zionists, who make up a substantial proportion of his base.
On Saturday, the League of Arab States is holding an emergency meeting and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will meet next Wednesday in Istanbul. It is imperative that Arab and Muslim nations not only speak with one voice but agree to meaningful countermeasures and joint strategies.
• Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is renowned for his views on international political affairs, his philanthropic activity, and his efforts to promote peace. He has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Twitter: @KhalafAlHabtoor