By Arab News
By Baria Alamuddin*
Ignore the ridiculous platitudes about peace and unity in Donald Trump’s Jerusalem speech, his decision perhaps permanently wrecks Trump’s own stated ambition of a grand peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. Given that Palestinians and world leaders told this to the president in no uncertain terms, Trump’s administration knows they have wilfully demolished their own Middle Eastern agenda through this self-defeating decision, which threatens to engulf the region in flames.
This Jerusalem declaration had nothing to do with the interests of either the Palestinians or Israelis. American commentators conclude that this was simply a cheap tactic for satisfying Trump’s core evangelical supporters after so many other lunatic campaign promises were dashed to pieces upon the hard rocks of reality. It also conveniently diverted attention from looming investigations into Trump’s collusion with Russia.
Trump loves to appear strong and decisive; repeatedly asserting that his predecessors weren’t sufficiently “brave” to take the Jerusalem decision.
Among the most articulate critics of this reckless decision are moderate Jews themselves. They recognize that, beyond handing Benjamin Netanyahu a cheap propaganda victory, this vacuous announcement changes nothing, while massively complicating efforts toward a lasting peace. It is their grandchildren who will suffer as a result of our generation’s stupidity in fanning the flames of hatred and injustice.
There has long been consensus over a shared solution for Jerusalem. King Abdullah’s 2002 Arab Peace Initiative recognized that Palestinians would settle for East Jerusalem as their capital. This hasn’t stopped Zionist extremists — with tacit official support — stealing every possible square inch in the east to erect illegal settlements and squeeze out Palestinians.
The announcement exemplifies Trump’s disdain for international law. UN declarations have consistently enshrined the principle that the status of Jerusalem could only be defined within a final-status peace deal. Since UN Resolution 242, which instructed Israel to withdraw from all territories occupied during the 1967 war, at least seven UN Security Council resolutions have been passed prohibiting any unilateral attempts to determine the status of Jerusalem (252, 267, 271, 298, 465, 476, and 478, along with a string of additional resolutions confirming these legal touchstones). As recently as December 2016, Resolution 2334 asserted that the Security Council would “not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem.”
How is it that, just a few months later, nobody is talking about action to ensure that these laudable aspirations are legally enforced?
By prejudicing Jerusalem’s status and dropping America’s previous insistence on a two-state solution, Trump has gutted the fundamental precepts upon which any peace deal could be built — undermining decades of efforts by moderates on both sides, who tirelessly sought formulas for peace.
One speech cannot efface thousands of years of Arab heritage, nor erase the religious affinity which billions of Christians and Muslims feel for this holy city — and will still feel in 10,000 or 100,000 years’ time.
Such is Jerusalem’s sacred status that we can truly say this is a city for all humanity. Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, having already been a settlement for several millennia before the Jews even appeared in ancient Palestine and captured the city through force of arms.
The bloody manner in which the city repeatedly changed hands during the Crusades and under a dizzying succession of short-lived empires demonstrates the futility of any single party trying to assert exclusive control. Does Netanyahu and Trump believe they can disregard or rewrite 7,000 years of history?
I still vividly remember visiting Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa long ago and being awestruck by a location tangibly overflowing with culture and holiness: Not only its indelible Arab heritage, but also the reverence with which deeply-rooted Christian communities venerated their shared city.
Palestinians are rightly up in arms about such cynical brinkmanship over the capital of their future state. The wider Arab world is similarly furious about an issue they have grown up caring passionately about. Yet Jerusalem is sacred to the entire Muslim world. Jerusalem indeed has resonance for billions of people from a multitude of faiths and sects.
A cheap decision to please Trump’s rabidly anti-Muslim base and far-right Israeli allies is already having tragic consequences. Palestinian blood is being spilled. The fact that, prior to this announcement, the US State Department told Americans to avoid travel to the region proves its foreknowledge of the deadly consequences of Trump’s pronouncement.
The temptation toward violent tactics must be resisted. Children who pelt Israeli soldiers with stones can expect to be mowed down like ants. Images of masked rioters throwing Molotov cocktails will be exploited by Trump’s friends at Fox News to portray all Muslims as uncivilized savages.
Yet I hope and pray that hundreds of millions of people — of all faiths and ethnicities — come out peacefully to make themselves heard on this issue. Muslims as far away as Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia are already coming out in their tens of thousands to express their anger.
Just as the world erupted against Trump’s Muslim travel ban and his refusal to condemn neo-Nazis marching through Charlottesville, we must condemn this act of vandalism against the peace process.
The Arab world of 2017 is beset by a critical mass of conflicts and crises. It has been many years since Arab nations spoke with one voice on anything; we must once again rediscover that voice. In the face of injustice, intolerance and brute force, if there is one issue which can bring the entire civilized world together — let it be Jerusalem.
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.