President Donald Trump’s announcement this week that the US is henceforth recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will have many harmful repercussions for the entire Middle East.
But out of the ashes of US policy, something better can arise. Russia should step in to give badly needed leadership.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was among many world leaders who warned that Trump’s intervention will likely derail peace prospects, not just for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but for the region as a whole.
Palestinians, Arabs and Muslim nations are infuriated by what they see as Trump’s betrayal of a righteous cause for Palestinian statehood, with East Jerusalem being the future capital of that state.
By declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, Trump is effectively pre-empting any negotiated settlement to a conflict which has raged for 70 years.
Trump’s rash intervention upends countless United Nations resolutions calling for negotiated settlement, and which uphold Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem.
Trump says his designation this week is merely “reflecting reality”. No! What the American leader is doing is reflecting the injustice of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, and in particular its annexation of East Jerusalem from the 1967 Six Day War.
The Israeli occupation has been condemned in countless UN resolutions. What Trump’s declaration amounts to is Washington’s open complicity in violation of Palestinian rights.
For the past 25 years since the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, Washington has appointed itself as the mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Those negotiations have gone nowhere in terms of delivering Palestinian rights to establish a sovereign state.
For the past three years, there has in fact been no negotiations at all.
The peace process has gone nowhere because it is a charade due in large part because of Washington’s reprehensible bias towards Israeli political objectives. This pandering by the US has emboldened Israeli chauvinism and reluctance to negotiate a fair deal with the Palestinians.
Trump’s move this week to trash global consensus and international law by endorsing the ultimate Israeli snub to a peace process – the usurpation of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel – is the last straw. The American president has revealed that the US is not a responsible mediator.
Palestinian leaders from the two main factions, Fatah and Hamas, have responded by saying the supposed peace process is over. Fatah has said it does not want to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence when he is due to visit the West Bank later this month.
Paradoxically, what Trump has done this week may bring about a new initiative to drive forward a genuine peace process. But in any new process, the US will no longer be able to pose as a mediator. Its credentials as an “honest broker” are shattered beyond repair after Trump’s foolhardy intervention.
America’s tarnished image in the Middle East is not just due to its failings over Palestinian rights. Washington’s pernicious wars and covert operations have fueled conflicts and unleashed millions of deaths. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, Iran, among others, all bear the consequences of American selfish meddling in the region.
America’s self-appointed role as a peace tribune is a mockery.
On the matter of Israel-Palestine, an international forum must be convened in which the rights of Palestinians and the rule of law are enforced against Israeli transgressions.
Russia has shown itself to be a trusted international player, adhering to principles of international law and national sovereignty. While Washington has forfeited its role, Moscow has, through recent regional developments, gained huge multilateral respect.
This week Russia’s Vladimir Putin, in a phone call with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that it was imperative to restart the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations, and to seek a genuine compromise solution, including the status of Jerusalem as a shared capital, perhaps with the Western half belonging to Israel and the Eastern half to Palestine.
Putin said any final settlement must be based on corresponding resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly, and on the enforcement of the rights of the Palestinian people to create their own state.
This is the kind of diplomatic leadership that the world expects and needs, in contrast to America’s mendacious meddling under Trump and his White House predecessors.