MOST of the international community is in agreement that Israeli annexation and settlement of East Jerusalem since 1967 is illegal, and henceforth refused to recognise Jerusalem (Baitulmuqaddis) as Israel’s capital.
The leaders of the Muslim world gathered at an extraordinary summit in Turkey on Dec 13, as a response to United States President Donald Trump’s unwelcomed decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Days after the summit, Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan announced Ankara would open an embassy in East Jerusalem to recognise it as the capital of Palestine. Consequently, US-Turkey relations have sunk to new lows.
In the world’s most populous Muslim country, 80,000 Indonesian Muslims rallied outside the US embassy to express their solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Similar scenes have been observed in other Muslim capitals, including Ankara and Karachi, to rail against Trump’s game-changing decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Muslims around the world, and especially in the Middle East, may ultimately hold their ruling elites accountable for an epic failure of leadership. King Abdullah II of Jordan, one of Washington’s most valued allies, is whirling from the decision. Jordan already has a population that is half Palestinian. He is backing Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestine who has adopted extreme anti-US positions.
Some argued that Trump’s decision disrespects the Christian sites in Jerusalem as well. Jordan has been the custodian of all Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem since 1994. Even Pope Francis said in his weekly address that this status quo which governs the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites should be respected. Meanwhile, Nazareth, the Israeli Arab city where Jesus (peace be upon him) was believed to have been raised has cancelled some Christmas celebrations in protest at Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem.
Even in US-friendly Egypt, hundreds of protesters had gathered in Al-Azhar mosque to chant “Trump, you madman”. Tilda Swinton, Mark Ruffalo, Roger Waters, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno are among dozens of writers, musicians and actors who have condemned Trump.
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, has stated that Trump’s national security strategy is not “America First”, it’s “America Alone”. Trump bragged that the US is “leading again on the world stage, just as his UN ambassador Nikki Haley was being chastised at the UN Security Council last Monday”.
The US was isolated and outnumbered at the UNSC with 14 to 1 votes against its stance on Jerusalem. It stood alone, defensive and defiant, as ambassador Haley whined about the world’s “insult” to the US. Monday’s scene at the UN makes Trump’s assertions about renewed US respectability and influence around the world a joke.
Trump’s judgment on his foreign policy is even discussed hotly in the US. The New York Times which did so with a headline that read “Trump: Madman of the Year” last year claimed their president was as “confused” about Jerusalem, and made matters “more bewildering and stressful for everyone”.
Trump’s motivation might go beyond consolidating his supporters of the hardcore right-wing evangelical base. More likely, the president might have typically, as always, had a grandiose idea by settling this issue with a strong, decisive tone, but not taking into consideration the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not like any of his previous business or political judgments.
As a social scientist studying “liars and their lies”, Bella DePaulo, former professor at the University of Virginia recently stated, “Nearly two-thirds of Trump’s lies (65 per cent) were self-serving. Slightly less than 10 per cent of Trump’s lies were kind ones, told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else.”
It is typical that Trump’s Jerusalem call was self-serving but poorly thought through to consolidate domestic supporters through a “bluff”.
Indeed, the actual move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will take years which could dissipate the sentiment of such a political “scam”.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian UN envoy says Trump’s recent move “encourages more Israeli crimes”, as 14 other Security Council members backed the proposed measure. “Israel has been a terrorist state from beginning, and has its foundations in terrorism. Three Israeli prime ministers were or are terrorists: Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon.”
Retired West Chester University professor Lawrence Davidson last month announced, “Israel and the Zionist project are anachronisms.” Building on his history of anti-Zionist activism, Davidson used the 2017 centenary of the 1917 British Balfour Declaration to attack Israel’s rebirth. He condemned the first international recognition of a renewed Jewish homeland in the Holy Land as an “imperial and colonial document in which a European power promised a non-European parcel of land to another European people”.
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale professor Virginia Tilley, a rabid Israel-hater, went so far as to reject a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict as “unacceptable because it preserves Israel in its present form as an apartheid state”. She declared, “Israel will be the same state, with the same character, with the same racist laws, with the same self-declared mission, within just different borders”.
Trump’s declaration is a sign that Washington is not qualified to play its role “as sponsor of peace” in the Middle East.
Much of the world has already considered the US as a partial actor with pro-Israel views.
Trump’s new position, however, has explicitly endorsed an American shift from a pseudo-neutral mediator to a staunch devotee of Israel. It is not wrong to believe that the future of peace in the region is becoming less likely.
The writer, a Fulbright scholar and Japan Institute of International Affairs fellow, is a former lecturer of UiTM Shah Alam and International Islamic University Malaysia, Gombak