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Couple of days back, Donald Trump announced that Washington was prepared to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. US president has also announced that Israel has to establish its borders within Jerusalem in the course of negotiations with Palestine. This announcement was followed by a series of preparations on the part of US State Department to transfer US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
It was known in advance that Trump was preparing such a statement, and this announcement triggered a barrage of criticism all around the globe. Turkey and other Muslim countries all of which enjoy membership in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation would threaten US and Israel that they would sever their relations with both of the above mentioned states. As for the representatives of Palestine, they warned the White House that such a step is an equivalent of declaring a war on the Middle East as a whole. The League of Arab States, the European Union, Britain, France, Germany and even the Pope himself would urge Washington to abandon those plans. Even Saudi Arabia, an obedient ally of the United States, warned Trump that his unilateral decision would undermine the efforts to pursue a peaceful settlement.
The status of Jerusalem is the stumbling block of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The eastern part of the city, seized by the Israelis during the war of 1967, is perceived by most Palestinians as the future capital of the independent state they are to pronounce one day.
According to a number of UN resolutions, this territory is considered as a land occupied by Israel and its status should become the subject of negotiations. However, Israel keeps insisting that Jerusalem is its capital.
After all, Jerusalem is a shrine for all Muslims, so we’re talking about at least 60 states with a predominantly Muslim population getting outraged with Trump’s decision, along with at least another 50 countries where Muslims constitute an impressive minority.
So, with a single stroke of a pen Trump has drastically affected the lives of 1.8 billion people, or 25% of the world’s population. The American president has virtually spat in the face of such states as Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Iran, as well as in the face of Muslim communities in England, France, Germany, Spain, and the US. Russia can also consider itself to be offended, since Muslims make one fifth of its population.
Of course, there have been steps taken in this direction before. Back in 1980, Israel passed a law according to which Jerusalem was to be transformed in the capital of the Israeli state, but no state would formally acknowledge this step. The international community reached a consensus that Jerusalem wouldn’t be regarded as the capital of Israel until the moment that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is settled. Trump has destroyed this consensus now.
Even for Israel this decision didn’t sound like pleasant news, as the usual course of events has been broken down at the most unfortunate stretch of time: when Tel-Aviv is preparing military operations against the Hezbollah and Iranian forces in southern Syria which can trigger a full-scale war with Iran. The ongoing non-stop bombing of Iranian facilities deep within the Syrian territory can be regarded as preliminary steps in an invasion campaign. And now the conflict in Yemen with its ongoing confrontation between Shiites and Sunnis has burst out with a renewed strength.
An increase in tensions is by far the worst present Trump could make to the Middle East right now. The region is seriously destabilised in the sense of a balance of interests. Both the second invasion of Iraq and the god-awful damage control shown by Washington in its aftermath has tipped the scales of balance. Then followed the Arab Spring and American attempts to put a large bet on ‘moderate’ Islamists and Qatar. Finally, the third and final nail in the coffin of regional stability was put by the awkward solution of the Iranian nuclear problem and the ongoing attempts to review it.
There’s no doubt that Trump’s decision will inevitably reduce the role Washington plays in the Middle East. The official reaction of Palestine on the issue of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem has been indicated by the fact that a number of high-profile Palestinian figures would travel to Washington to warn the Trump administration about the potential consequences of such a dangerous step. They have already announced that should the White House proceed in this direction the Palestinian leadership would consider itself to be free of any agreements previously signed with the United States. In other words, the Palestinian leadership will change its approach both towards Israel and the United States.
In any case, the Middle East is now on the verge of a catastrophic conflict provoked by the awkward steps Washington has been making. The United States will begin to put forward new ideas and proposals for resolving the conflict, which will only complicate the situation. In turn, this will lead to more disappointment and will only increase tensions around Palestine. Perhaps the Trump administration is not aware of the seriousness of the problem of Jerusalem. Perhaps it hasn’t learned nothing from the crisis provoked by the attempts to install metal detectors on the Temple Mount, that could result in a major conflict.
But Israel stepped back at the very last moment by removing all detectors and cameras from this sacred place. Even if the current situation is the result of some confusion, the damage caused by it will affect the ability of the United States to act as a mediator in the political processes, since it cannot be regarded as an honest broker if it is blindly committed to supporting Israel. Obviously, Washington supports the Netanyahu government, and this stupid use of Jerusalem in its political manoeuvres is yet another American failure that will go on the list of President Trump’s political failures.