The decision by US President Donald Trump to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has provoked familiar Arab and international reactions. Trump’s decision, biased in favour of Israel, was followed by condemnation, denunciation, and disapproval from many countries, organisations, and civil and political institutions around the world. Many considered the decision of the American President to be reckless and foolish.
If those interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict considered the Israeli and Western violations of international law over the past 50 years, regarding as well the logic of denunciation and condemnation and all that falls within the context of principled and general political positions, they would find that the issue has come to be governed by the rules of history. Acknowledging the consequences of this requires courage, as well as the expression of the political approaches adopted by those many Arabs and Palestinians, as well as international forces, that still view Israel as a colonial entity.
For years Israel has been working to surround Jerusalem with settlements and cut off its links with Palestinian cities. It also imposes special conditions on the residents of East Jerusalem, especially day-to-day living and residency conditions. The American decision is part of the steps to establish new, major features for a new Middle East. The various steps being taken by both sides occur in the context of the current support processes provided by the Arab reality to the Arab-Israeli conflict and its public and hidden developments. Over the past two decades, Iraq and Syria were destroyed, Yemen is being destroyed today, and chaos is being spread in Libya. Not to mention the operation to distance Egypt from the consequences of the conflict occurring in the occupied territories.
Furthermore, we must not ignore the roles played by regional and international forces in the Gulf, as there are indications of a sectarian conflict between the Sunnis and the Shias, as well as amongst the Gulf countries. Regardless of the name, they are being arranged in the context of the confusion linked to counterterrorism and confronting the Syrian regime’s opposition. This has, and continues to contribute to, the violations of international conventions related to Palestine, in order to reinforce the state of the impasse suffered by the cause over the past years. On the other hand, Israel continues its settlement plans and expanding the circles of normalisation with several Arab governments.
The Palestinian issue has not been on the agenda of Arab governments and their regional organisations, such as the Arab League, for many years. The Palestinians have been carrying the flags of their homeland and suffering from the torture of Israeli domination and its various consequences, including geographical fragmentation of their land, falsifying their history and the history of their struggle, and suffering under all forms of violence by the Israeli colonial occupation. This all occurred in coincidence with the so-called settlement and peace negotiations; negotiations that have no beginning or end and have made no tangible progress in terms of results and prospects. Instead, they cover up American and Israeli projects and options. This proves that the Palestinian cause is no longer an Arab priority. The two-state solution is hinted at from time to time, but how can we engage in considering the aforementioned issues at a time when the Palestinians are divided, more than ever, over immediate and urgent interests?
We have the right to ask: What comes next, after the condemnation, denunciation, and protests? What about Palestinian division? What about the fragmentations within the Arab governments? What about the destruction suffered by Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya? What about the stalemate in the political process between Israel and the Palestinians? What about the Arab governments that are impotent and have a hand in the decline and relapses of the Palestinian cause? What about the political elites who are unable to go beyond promoting public and principled slogans?
Should we repeat the past and categorise the Jerusalem battle as a religious battle? I do not think this categorisation would be beneficial, as the issue of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is considered a sign of the main issue, i.e. Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Although Jerusalem has historical, religious, and political value, it is in the same situation as its fellow Palestinians cities. While it is a flower among cities, it is still occupied and colonised.
The recklessness displayed by Trump warrants putting in place an urgent plan given the ongoing reconciliation between the Palestinian factions. This plan should put the reality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict under consideration. On the other hand, the Arab side can think about the future of Palestine and the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict in a new light.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 21 December 2017
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.