Trump’s Error on Jerusalem Is a Disaster for the Arab World… and the US Too

Every time it seems Donald Trump cannot outdo himself, he does it again. Now he has announced that his administration will recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing nearly seven decades of American policy. This step will have multiple negative ramifications, many impossible to predict.

Jerusalem is the most important of the so-called final status issues that have been repeatedly deferred during the Israel-Palestine negotiations because of their extreme sensitivity. Trump has ploughed into this imbroglio like a bull in a china shop, zeroing in on the most complex and emotional issue of all those connected to Palestine.

[From the Journal of Palestine Studies | The Ownership of the U.S. Embassy Site in Jerusalem]

Jerusalem is undoubtedly the most important aspect of the entire Palestine question. It has been central to the identity of Palestinian Muslims and Christians as far back as the founding moments of both religions, and has become even more so as the conflict over Palestine has become fiercer.

The rivalry over this holy city is exacerbated by the fact that the same site – the Haram al-Sharif to Muslims, the Temple Mount to Jews – is sacred to both. Because of its explosive nature, this is an issue that no Palestinian politician, and few Arab leaders, would dare to trifle with.

For someone such as me, whose family has lived in Jerusalem for hundreds of years, Trump’s announcement does not just mean that the US has adopted the Israeli position that Jerusalem belongs exclusively to Israel. He has also retroactively legitimised Israel’s seizure and military occupation of Arab East Jerusalem during the 1967 war, and its imposition of discriminatory laws on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living there. The damage he has done will be permanent: the US cannot undo this recognition.

This act completely disqualifies the US from its longstanding role as broker, a position that Washington has monopolised for itself. So much for the pitiful “peace plan” that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was cooking up and hoping to impose on the Palestinians.

[From the Journal of Palestine Studies |East Jerusalem: The Myth of Benign Occupation Disintegrates]

Trump’s action signals disdain for the opinion of the whole Arab world. Whatever Arab dictators and absolute monarchs may tell the Americans they depend on, the Arab peoples are unanimous in supporting the Palestinian position on Jerusalem. Their inevitable reactions to this move will impinge on vital US interests all over the region. As secretary of defense James Mattis noted in 2013: “I paid a military security price every day as a commander of [Central Command] because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel.”

This latest diplomatic fiasco is another instance of the administration showing utter contempt for the views of the rest of the world. Not one country recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There is a global consensus that until a settlement is achieved, it is illegitimate to prejudge or predetermine the outcome of negotiations. The US formally assured the Palestinians on this score in inviting them to the 1991 Madrid peace conference.

Of course, there is a lengthy American track record of bias in favour of Israel. No one should have expected fairness on this issue from them or from their boss.

It is now hard to see how a sustainable Palestinian-Israeli agreement is possible. True to Trump form, this is an entirely self-inflicted wound that will long echo in the annals of diplomacy. It will further diminish the already reduced standing of the US, complicating relations with allies, with Muslims and Arabs – and with people of common sense the world over.

[From the Journal of Palestine Studies |The Centrality of Jerusalem to an End of Conflict Agreement]

Trump, who was warned against this step by Arab, Middle Eastern and European leaders, has now made resolving the conflict over Palestine much harder, even as he has brought joy to his friends, and to their dangerous, extremist soulmates in Israel. Far from ushering in the “deal of the century”, as he boasted, with this foolish move Trump may usher in the debacle of the century. This is a sad day for international law, for Palestine, and for everyone who cares about peace in the Middle East.

Co-posted with The Guardian.

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About Rashid Khalidi 6 Articles

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, is the editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies. He is the author of several journal articles and books, most recently Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.

3 Comments

  1. The Jebusite/Canaanites, ancestors of today’s Palestinians, who along with their ancestors have lived continuously between the River and the Sea for at least 15,000 years,** founded Jerusalem around 3000 BCE. It is estimated that the biblical Hebrews did not arrive until circa 1800 BCE. Originally known as Jebus, the first recorded reference to it as “Rushalimum” (or “Urussalim”) appears in Egyptian Execration Texts of the nineteenth century BCE, nearly 800 years before it is alleged King David was born.
    BTW, thus far, no archaeological evidence, or more importantly, writings of contemporaneous civilizations, have been found that prove Solomon or David actually existed. (Nor has any evidence been discovered to confirm that the Jewish exodus from Egypt ever occurred. )

    To quote the renowned Jewish Israeli writer/columnist, Uri Avnery: “[David and Solomon’s] existence is disproved, inter alia, by their total absence from the voluminous correspondence of Egyptian rulers and spies in the Land of Canaan.” (“A Curious National Home,” by Uri Avnery, May 13/17 –
    http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1494589093/)

    **
    http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fgene.2017.00087/full
    Front. Genet., 21 June 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2017.00087
    The Origins of Ashkenaz, Ashkenazic Jews, and Yiddish

    Recent genetic samples from bones found in Palestine dating to the Epipaleolithic (20000-10500 BCE) showed remarkable resemblance to modern day Palestinians.
    EXCERPTS:
    “The non-Levantine origin of AJs [Ashkenazi Jews] is further supported by an ancient DNA analysis of six Natufians and a Levantine Neolithic (Lazaridis et al., 2016), some of the most likely Judaean progenitors (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2002; Frendo, 2004). In a principle component analysis (PCA), the ancient Levantines clustered predominantly with modern-day Palestinians and Bedouins and marginally overlapped with Arabian Jews, whereas AJs clustered away from Levantine individuals and adjacent to Neolithic Anatolians and Late Neolithic and Bronze Age Europeans.”

    “Overall, the combined results are in a strong agreement with the predictions of the Irano-Turko-Slavic hypothesis (Table 1) and rule out an ancient Levantine origin for AJs, which is predominant among modern-day Levantine populations (e.g., Bedouins and Palestinians). This is not surprising since Jews differed in cultural practices and norms (Sand, 2011) and tended to adopt local customs (Falk, 2006). Very little Palestinian Jewish culture survived outside of Palestine (Sand, 2009). For example, the folklore and folkways of the Jews in northern Europe is distinctly pre-Christian German (Patai, 1983) and Slavic in origin, which disappeared among the latter (Wexler, 1993, 2012).”

  2. The Palestinian people, as well as all solidarity activists around the world, all know that we cannot rely on politicians and warmakers to speak for us or to lead us to a world of peace, freedom and justice. It is up to us, and all grassroots, local, community activists and organizations to continue to lead the fight create a better Middle East and a better world. For Americans, the most important thing we can do is to strengthen the popular international campaign to BOYCOTT, DIVEST AND SANCTION Israel, and that includes pressuring Trump, Congress and other agencies of the U.S. government to sanction Israel–Suspend All Aid to Israel, both military aid and non-military aid. AND stop all arms shipments to the Middle East! BDS! BDS! BDS!

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