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Moving US embassy to Jerusalem may change the course of action

Here are the three points related to the idea of Occupied Jerusalem, its historical dimensions and the recent situation

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

The United States’ decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Occupied Jerusalem is not a new measure. Although the US Congress ordered the move more than a decade ago, every president since then has kept postponing it as they cannot reject the order unless by going back to the Congress and issuing another order that vetoes it. This attempt may not even work. What’s new now is that the new American president intends to implement it and has promised to do so.

I will discuss three points related to the embassy and moving it and they are related to the concept of Occupied Jerusalem, its historical dimensions and the recent situation. Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the US and other superpowers set up their diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv, the first capital of the Jewish state. Until one year before the 1967 War, the US had opened its embassy complex in Tel Aviv. This complex is still the official headquarters.

Later on, it built a consulate in Jerusalem and its location changed through the years. It is now located in the Green Line zone, which separates the two Jerusalems of the holy city. Terms such as “Occupied Jerusalem” have been used mysteriously as it usually means “Occupied Eastern Jerusalem” and not the entire city of Jerusalem. They mean the part which Israel occupied during the 1967 War and which was under Jordan’s control.

Before that, West Jerusalem was under Israel’s control and it was not part of any discussions or negotiations. It was a settled matter that it was under Israel’s authority. Some Arab politicians use this vague term “Occupied Jerusalem” to avoid getting involved in any matters related to recognizing Israel.

On a historical level, the Palestinians only had one chance to restore Occupied Eastern Jerusalem and the negotiating delegation, headed by late President Yasser Arafat, wasted this opportunity at Camp David in 2000. This has nothing to do with the other Camp David negotiations.

What we hope from the US President Donald Trump is that he uses this controversial measure of moving the embassy in the context of the peaceful solution he promised

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Clinton proposal

Back then, former US President Bill Clinton had decided to finalize the issue and put his entire weight behind the negotiations. He reached a “reasonable” solution with Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak – a solution which no one before him reached or proposed.

Clinton’s proposal was based on returning more than 90 percent of the land in the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip and linking them through a highway and then putting them under the authority of an independent demilitarized Palestinian state. A proposal also stipulated returning of Eastern Jerusalem – with its mosque and the dome of the rock to the Palestinians – and excluding the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall and placing them under international supervision.

For some unknown reason, Arafat missed the last meeting and sent a delegation to Washington informing Clinton that they reject the deal. The proposal thus collapsed. During that period, extremist Palestinian groups affiliated to Iran and the Assad regime, like Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, became active and carried out armed operations against Israel. The extremist Israeli camp used these operations to thwart a new attempt of a settlement at negotiations held in Taba and Yehud Barak submitted his resignation.

Arafat tried to revive the process but it was too late and until today Eastern Jerusalem and all occupied territories suffer from stealing of land, altering ground realities and imposing a Jewish presence on them. This is a summary of developments, which reflect politicians’ failure to deal with options related to war and peace.

Opportunistic regimes

Due to the trail of destruction across the Middle East, in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the Palestinian cause is no longer central. We have not forgotten how extremists succeeded at exploiting the Palestinian tragedy to serve opportunistic regimes. Iran gained nuclear agreement with the US while Hezbollah practically seized Lebanon under the pretext of the false resistance. However, Assad and late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi truly lost due to their inciting stances.

Will moving the American embassy to Jerusalem end the hope of establishing a Palestinian state? I think moving the American embassy – or any other embassy – will give legitimacy to occupation. What we hope from the US President Donald Trump is that he uses this controversial measure of moving the embassy in the context of the peaceful solution he promised.

Trump has said he will assign his son-in-law to handle that and this shows his concern. Who knows, this embassy matter may lead to the end of political battles.

This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on January 25, 2017.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.