American President Donald Trump announced yesterday that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and said he had directed the Department of State to start working on moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. "I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," he said. "While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering."
For Arabs, Muslims and international leaders and nations, this is an outrageous move that should not be made before the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump's announcement has been condemned by almost all Arab, Muslim and world leaders. Even senior people within the three major monotheistic religions have criticised the US President; they believe that this could trigger never-ending war. Why, we must ask, did Trump choose this time to make this particular announcement? What was he thinking?
Jewish Israeli writers have said that he is being influenced by his powerful allies, including Vice President Mike Pence and Republican "mega-donor" Sheldon Adelson, but Trump clearly studied the expected responses to what he would say and found that they would amount to a big, fat zero. He expected severe criticism, of course, but it would be nothing of substance. This was very obvious throughout his speech when he mentioned America's initial recognition of Israel.
He referred to his predecessor Harry Truman, who recognised the nascent state 70 years ago. His support for Zionists was crucial to the UN adoption of its Partition Plan for Palestine. The US recognition encouraged other member states to do likewise. Trump knows very well that the UN and its members, who followed Truman's recognition of Israel despite it being built on stolen land, are likely to follow his own recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Prior to Truman's initial move, the US had pledged to Saudi Arabia and its King not to take any decision regarding Palestine and the conflict with the Zionists without consulting him. However, ever since then, neither Saudi Arabia, nor any other Arab or Muslim nations have done anything substantial to push the US back or, at least, ignore its recognition and continue to regard Palestine with serious intent as a Palestinian, Arab or Islamic land.
Today, Trump knows very well that most of the world powers do not recognise Jerusalem because they fear that to do so would undermine their interests and relations with the Arab and Muslim countries. That explains why he has concentrated on getting some key Arab states to be close to Israel and its vision of a resolution for the long-running conflict. He then had the Saudis, once the spearhead of the struggle against Zionism, to adopt his own perceptions and dictate them to the Palestinians.
The New York Times revealed early this week that the Saudis summoned the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh to brief him about the US-Israel peace plan. Of course, this means that they have already adopted it themselves. As the New York Times said, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman "presented [the US] plan that would be more tilted toward the Israelis than any ever embraced by the American government, one that presumably no Palestinian leader could ever accept." The plan clearly stipulated that even East Jerusalem would never be the capital of the potential future Palestinian state. If this is the case, what will East Jerusalem be? Of course; together with West Jerusalem, the united capital of Israel.
Abbas, who criticised Trump's announcement and said it had killed the peace process and ended forever the two-state solution, hailed Saudi Arabia after his meeting with its officials and said nothing. This suggests very strongly that the three days of rage that he has called for will come to an end and he will continue security cooperation with Israel in order to deter any resistance to Trump's announcement. It will be business as usual. Abbas is the Palestinian who helped Israel to end Al-Aqsa Intifada which was sparked-off in 2000 when the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon desecrated Al-Aqsa Mosque. He will also be the Palestinian, surely, who will fight against his fellow Palestinians who wish to resist recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
For two decades, the Arabs, Muslims and world leaders have known that this day would come because the US Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, which urges the federal government to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognise it as Israel's capital. Trump's predecessors put off this decision to avoid tension in the Arab region. Keeping silent for two decades, except some remarks here and there, demonstrates that they approve of his decision to implement the terms of the legislation.
Furthermore, the Palestinians knew that the US is on the side of the Israeli occupation and yet they continued for decades to believe it to be an honest broker for peace. Even if PA officials had denounced the US for its pro-Israel bias in the peace process, though, they would have backed-down very quickly when Saudi Arabia, which behind closed doors accepted Trump's plan, waved the Arab [for which read, Saudi] Peace Initiative. Neither the PA nor any Arab or Muslim states would distance themselves from the initiative. Indeed, the Arab League and the OIC also adopted it.
"We have declined to acknowledge any Israeli capital at all [for 70 years]," Trump said, "but today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It's something that has to be done." This was his way of asking world leaders why they are angry today when they have more or less accepted this reality for 70 years.
"Today, Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government," explained Trump. "It is the home of the Israeli parliament the Knesset, as well as the Israeli Supreme Court. It is the location of the prime minister and president. It is the headquarters of many government ministries. For decades, US officials have met their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem."
For him, it was nothing out of the ordinary for his administration to recognise all of this officially. There was, in his eyes, no reason to defer the announcement any longer, so why delay the inevitable?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.