Many of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises were far-fetched, but perhaps the most easily attainable is the one that risks the greatest disruption to the political stability of the Middle Eastern peace process: his vow to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Earlier this week, reports that the Trump administration has assured its allies that the US he will push for this move has been met with two responses at either ends of the spectrum: widespread condemnation or a loud applause.
What the Trump administration does not realize is that meddling with Jerusalem is like playing with fire – the cities legal definition as a corpus-separatum dates back to 1947 in the United Nations partition plan and resolution 181. The cities legal status has been further reaffirmed in 11 separate UN-resolutions, which have jointly referred to the city as an international City, and to East Jerusalem as an occupied territory.
Thus, moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, combined with recognizing an undivided-Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city would be considered to be a violation of international law.
Trump isn’t the first president to try and make this move. In 1995, the US congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Since then , three US presidents including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have signed waivers every six months to delay the move.Yara al-Wazir
Trump isn’t the first president to try and make this move. In 1995, the US congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Since then , three US presidents including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have signed waivers every six months to delay the move.
The real question isn’t will Trump’s administration move forward with the move, rather when will the move become permanent, and how will the Palestinian people and the Palestinian government react?
The Palestinian Authority has its say
The Palestinian Authority, the representative of the Palestinian people since the Oslo Accords in 1994 has spoken out by threatening to revoke its recognition of Israel if the move goes forward. What this rather unprecedented stance by Mahmoud Abass’s government says is that moving the embassy will not only halt any efforts in the peace negotiation process, but that relocating the Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem will set the negotiations back to 1993 when Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo I accord to recognize Israel.
In the occupation there are two sides, the occupied, and the occupier, without the legal precedent to regencies either side the countries involved throw themselves into turmoil, dragging the neighboring states with them. Moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem risks retaliation by the Palestinian public as well as neighboring Arab states that recognize the religious importance of Eastern Jerusalem in Islam.
What a move would look like
Moving the Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem won’t lead to a simple address update on Google Maps; the implication would be near impossible to reverse and would put an inevitable end to working towards a two-state solution, which has been for decades the stance by the United Nations and peace negotiations that have involved the parties. And end to the two-state solution and recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel would further pressure the 300,000 Palestinians in Eastern-Jerusalem who live under the poverty line.
It would legitimize further expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian soil (which are also illegal under five different resolutions dating back to 1979), and extend further power and control to the occupier to further widen the apartheid status of Israel.
Palestinians must recognize their legal rights
The “burning bridges” approach imposed by the Trump administration will not push the Palestinians into a corner where they are forced to negotiate, mostly because the Palestinians have nothing to negotiate with. Nor is that the aim of the Trump administration – the aim is to burn the bridge towards a two-state solution and force the Palestinians to give up their fundamental rights to their land.
What the Palestinians need to recognize is their wants: the right to a free existence. The significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish faith is not up for negotiation as it has been recognized for over 80 years, since the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The core thing to understand is that contesting the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem does not constitute a stance towards Jewish heritage – it has nothing to do with that.
In the 21st century, human beings self-worth and right to determination should not be constituted by their religion, rather by their right to live as human beings. This is exactly what the Palestinians must continue to fight for, and what the government of Mahmoud Abbas is pushing for: recognitions of Palestinians as human beings with the right to free movement, free employment, and full rights to existence.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir