As Israel’s colonial ambitions prevail largely unhindered, Jerusalem has been bequeathed with further unwarranted contention. Speaking during a reception at the Israeli embassy in Washington, Ambassador Ron Dermer declared that moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would constitute “a great step forward” for Israel’s peace; the warped definition of “peace” is tantamount to Palestine’s (and Palestinians’) annihilation.
Quoted in the Times of Israel, Dermer added that such a decision would “send a strong message against [the] delegitimisation of Israel.” His statements echo Donald Trump’s electoral rhetoric as well as recent assertions by the president-elect’s senior aide Kellyanne Conway, who described the as yet hypothetical move as “something that our friend Israel, a great friend in the Middle East, would appreciate and something that a lot of Jewish-Americans have expressed their preference for.” The US has consistently applied the presidential waiver to the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which calls for relocation of the embassy and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, citing national security interests as justification.
It is indeed dangerous that contention – already an aberration given the legitimacy of Palestinian anti-colonial struggle – has been confined to Jerusalem. If Trump’s rhetoric is acted upon, and the embassy is moved, the decision would violate UN Security Council 478 which states clearly that Israel’s 1980 Basic Law “constitutes a violation of international law”. Article 5 of the Resolution states that the UNSC “decides not to recognise the ‘basic law’ and such other actions by Israel that, as a result of this law, seek to alter the character and status of Jerusalem.” It also instructs states with diplomatic presence in Jerusalem to withdraw therefrom, a clause that the US deemed to be “a disruptive attempt to dictate to other nations” while claiming that the resolution is non-binding. According to the UN, “in general, resolutions adopted by the Security Council… are considered binding” although “legal scholars have various opinions” about this.
Israel and the US have exploited such opinions in favour of resolutions being “non-binding” and expanded the definition over everything related to the Greater Israel project. What is disseminated as isolated, albeit shocking, decision-making is rooted deeply in alienation, which in turn has diminished the effectiveness of opposing US-Israeli complicity.
Undoubtedly, the centrality of Jerusalem for Palestinians should be emphasised. Yet, even Jerusalem has become an isolated and fragmented issue within the wider framework. The two-state compromise incorporates a divided Jerusalem, while the leaked Palestine Papers revealed chief negotiator Saeb Erekat’s willingness to relinquish Palestinian rights to the city. The UN General Assembly recognises Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem and the mainstream perception of a hypothetical Palestinian state also incorporates East Jerusalem. As can be seen, the fragmentation of Palestine remains a priority for Israel, the US and the international community.
In the absence of international consensus over Israeli violations and the importance of reversing colonial domination, Jerusalem will likely be relegated to being yet another territory to be bartered over, regardless of the land’s centrality to Palestine. For Israel, the diluting of historical importance will serve to promote fabricated claims while ensuring a receptive or reluctant audience, both of which provide Israel with an impetus to seek the permanent disfigurement of Jerusalem. It would be opportune for the international community to avail itself of the chance to embark upon a constructive effort to make Israel’s delegitimisation a priority and a logical outcome, although it looks as if colonial complicity will continue to take unwarranted precedence.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.