After yanking the US out of the Paris climate deal, President Dold Trump has now delivered on another ‘promise’ made to his core electorate. His declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decision to shift the US embassy there from Tel Aviv has sent his Christian right and hardline Jewish supporters/finciers into raptures. Trump being Trump, he seems to have had little patience for saner voices in his administration that cautioned against inflaming passions in the Middle East, goad the Islamists into more violence that could further threaten American lives and assets, and make the possibility of bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians to a lasting settlement even more remote. Over a hundred Jewish scholars in the US have come out with a statement expressing misgivings about Trump’s move to reverse decades of Washington’s policy that had favoured negotiations to decide the holy city’s future (with the Palestinians long seeking East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future tion). The Jewish scholars have invoked the immense religious and emotiol significance that the holy city bears to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, and the fact of it being the focus of tiol aspirations for both Israelis and Palestinians. But when Palestinian residents of Jerusalem endure ‘systematic inequalities’, home demolitions, denial of essential permits and travel restrictions, any decision by the US government “that appears to endorse sole Jewish proprietorship over Jerusalem adds insult to ongoing injury and is practically guaranteed to fan the flames of violence,” — the Jewish scholars have cautioned. To de-escalate tensions, they have called for clarifying Palestinians’ “legitimate stake in the future of Jerusalem”. Considering the generally liberal stance taken by highly educated American Jews, this statement is a welcome call for sanity. Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it during the six-day war in 1967, has made no secret of its desire to make the entire city its capital. European Union countries have already taken a stand against Trump’s move and rebuffed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to hard sell it. This is understandable, considering the bloodshed unleashed by IS, Al-Qaeda and other Islamist terror outfits on European soil. More ill-conceived moves by Washington would wreck all prospects of peace in the wider region, Brussels has made it clear.
The Arab League is already off the blocks with an emergency meeting at Cairo, denouncing Trump’s move as a “dangerous violation of intertiol law”, and that it is legally void. Announcing that it would seek a UN Security Council resolution rejecting the move, the Arab League’s statement said: “The decision has no legal effect. It deepens tension, ignites anger and threatens to plunge the region into more violence and chaos.” But the question is being asked whether the Arab tions will have the stomach for a battle of attrition with the Trump administration over Palestinians, whose sorry lot has drawn little else than lip sympathy over the years. The Middle East is yet to recover from the IS nightmare even though the rabid Islamists’ strongholds in Syria and Iraq have fallen. Saudi Arabia is in the grip of an interl power struggle with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman consolidating his hold on power by ousting rivals through an anti-graft crusade, even as the oil-rich kingdom is upping the ante against bitter rival Iran. Jordan and Egypt are as dependent on Washington as ever, while Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs the US to help bolster his dictatorial rule. With violence breaking out in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza as Palestinian protestors take on Israeli forces, some observers are already mourning the demise of the ‘Two States’ theory which envisaged Israel and Palestine as two tions learning to cohabit peacefully in a historically restless region. Others are pointing out that President Trump has merely articulated the reality of relentless Israeli expansion in occupied territories virtually under US protection; with this hypocrisy now filly ended, the Palestinians will see where they really stand and struggle for a feasible solution, these observers contend. The problem is that once hopelessness settles in over the long haul, endless archy and violence is the only foreseeable reality in the Middle East. It can impact India, Chi and other countries with restive Muslim minorities. Neither will the US go unscathed, even if it turns into a fortress under Trump’s rule.