I do not know why there is so much astonishment and shock at foolish US President Donald Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and plan to move the American Embassy there from Tel Aviv. It is as if Jerusalem, which has already been under Israeli occupation for 50 years, was entirely Muslim, Arab and Palestinian before this announcement. Did it need to be made official before we expressed our shock?
What is new, then, when the dream of the Promised Land for the Jews had already come true 30 years after the 1917 Balfour Declaration? Moreover, West Jerusalem was occupied officially in accordance with a UN Resolution in 1948 after the disastrous Partition Plan of November 1947. The occupation of East Jerusalem followed in 1967, after the humiliating defeat of the Arabs in the Six-Day War. This was followed by more Judaisation and erasure of the Arab and Muslim identity of Jerusalem and the West Bank, along with land confiscation and the accelerated and systematic construction of Jewish settlements over several decades. In short, Jerusalem has been subject to 100 years of Judaisation between Balfour and Trump.
The latest move is the culmination of a great deal of effort by the Zionists since the US Congress decided in 1995 to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was only the disputed status of the city which pressed successive American presidents to sign a waiver every six months to postpone the implementation of the Congress decision. In June this year, though, the US Senate adopted a bill calling for the embassy to be moved and for the Arab-Israeli conflict to be drawn to a close based on a two-state solution. This coincided with the Palestinians marking the 50th anniversary of the June 1967 Naksa ("setback") of the Six-Day War. The new factor is President Trump, who has made a habit of being reckless and increasing tension, and then resorting to escalating and provoking the emotions of hundreds of millions of Muslims across the globe.
The common denominator with all recent US presidents is the implicit recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but they have never gone past a verbal acknowledgement of this, and haven't imposed a new status quo that would ignite the region. They feared that a change in status of the city would provoke the Muslims and their religious attachment to all that Jerusalem stands for; Al-Aqsa Mosque was the first Qiblah — direction of prayer — and remains the holiest Islamic site after Makkah and Madinah. These presidents dealt with the situation based on the political logic of prioritising calmness over escalation and provocation. Trump, however, has fulfilled his election promise to the Israelis and responded to the pro-Israel Lobby, despite suffering from a legitimacy crisis and lacking the trust of the American people due to his clumsy and immature policies. It looks as if he is trying to divert attention from a hot domestic crisis towards an even hotter international crisis.
We should not dwell too much on the shock of Trump's decision, which is no surprise really, because the decision was trailed by clear indications of his intentions. To this must be added the fact that over 78 per cent of historic Palestine has been occupied by Israel, while the rest of the territories are not under genuine Palestinian sovereignty. The shameful irony is that the rightful owners of the land have been unable to declare their legitimate Palestinian state, while Israel has international support and recognition, in addition to regional recognition from countries and governments that were once its arch-enemies.
It is naive to believe that such a dangerous step regarding Jerusalem could be taken without coordination and consultation between Israel and Arab governments, mainly Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This was confirmed by Israel's Channel 10 less than an hour after Trump's decision, in an interview with the Israeli Minister of Transportation and Intelligence, Yisrael Katz. He insisted that the so-called "deal of the century" is still on track and is progressing faster than expected, as was the case with the counter-revolution led by the Gulf governments which only care about the preservation of their thrones. For the sake of this, these governments are falling into a pit of rapprochement, normalisation and concessions with Israel, out of fear and ambition.
This provided a golden opportunity for the Trump administration to take advantage and eliminate what remained of the dignity of the Arabs and Muslims. They now exist within an Arab and Islamic system that is weak and completely subject to the will of the US; and this is led by Israel's narrative on all critical issues.
This article first appeared in Arabic on Arabi21 on 7 December 2017
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.