UN Council Weighs Measure Rejecting US Jerusalem Decision


By Daoud Kuttab

The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that would insist any decisions on the status of Jerusalem have no legal effect and must be rescinded after US President Donald Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital.

The one-page Egyptian-drafted text, which was circulated to the 15-member council on Saturday and seen by Reuters, does not specifically mention the US or Trump. Diplomats say it has broad support but will likely be vetoed by Washington.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders, Muslim clerics and international experts on Saturday rejected attempts to predetermine the result of negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem.

The Trump administration believes that what Jews call the Western Wall and Muslims call Al-Buraq Wall will be part of Israel in a final agreement, a senior US official said on Friday.

“We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel. But as the president said, the specific boundaries of the sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final status agreement,” the official said.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi told Arab News: “The US would do better to adhere to international law rather than start giving away other people’s lands, cities and sacred sites on the basis of absolutist dogma and religious claims. Sovereignty is not based on religious affiliation; it is a human, legal, political and secular issue.”

Ashrawi, an English language professor, said the US administration should conduct historical research before speaking on sensitive issues such as Jerusalem, and that it should “learn from historical catastrophes like the crusades, also in our part of the world.”

Just because a site is viewed as sacred by one faith or another, no country or faith has the right to invade, occupy and annex it, Ashrawi said. “If members of different faiths did that, the whole world would be a mess.”

Ekrima Sabri, imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque and former mufti of Jerusalem, said non-Muslims had no right to determine the status of an Islamic site. A commission approved by the League of Nations in 1930 concluded that the wall was solely owned by the Muslim waqf, an Islamic religious trust, he said.

The imam described America’s statement about the wall as “an insult,” and called on Arab and Islamic leaders to “reclaim their dignity and honor.”

Offer Zalzberg, a senior researcher with the International Crisis Group, told Arab News the latest American statement was “problematic because of its context, not its text.”

“The US essentially communicates that — all the way until an agreement is reached — Jerusalem, both west and east, is Israel’s capital,” he said.

Aaron David Miller, vice president for New Initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and a former senior adviser on peace negotiations to Republican and Democratic administrations, said public comments on the future of Jerusalem were a “fraught enterprise.”

The Trump administration’s statements on the Western Wall were not inconsistent with previous administrations’ positions, especially the Clinton administration, and were “not fatal” to peace efforts, Miller said, but he expressed concerns about their effect.

Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute, told Arab News: “There’s no question whatsoever that this makes the US role as a mediator infinitely more difficult and greatly complicates any potential involvement by Arab countries in the peace process.”

Rather than clarifying Trump’s initial statement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which is what is needed, and emphasizing that the US position related only to West Jerusalem and not occupied East Jerusalem, this only added to the confusion about the American stance on Jerusalem, he said.

It also further prejudiced Jerusalem as a final-status issue and emphasized the extent to which US and Israeli commitments to Palestinians since 1993 about what issues remained to be mutually agreed on, and not preempted, had been unilaterally discarded, Ibish said.

“These comments make a bad situation worse by adding to the uncertainty about Washington’s policies and by foreclosing the idea many were clinging to that the White House would clarify that it is not preempting East Jerusalem issues.”

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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