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The US President’s decision on Jerusalem and its implications

On December 6th, 2017, the US President Donald Trump suddenly declared to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel and moved the US Embassy in Israel from Ten Aviv to this holy place. That decision goes against United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 478 in 1980 - which did not recognize juridical nature claiming Jerusalem as a part of Israel, causing waves of protest around the world and dangerous implications for the peace process in the Middle East.

The decision which is contradictory to the reality and in violation of international law

Jerusalem is the oldest and most sacred city in the world with the convergence of three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Although they all worship God and be born of an ancestor – the Supreme Abraham, each religion has a different interpretation of religion doctrine which in turn creates deep contradictions. This is the cause of some brutal wars among religions aiming at winning the promised land.

Since its inception in 1948, the Israeli state has always sought to gain the world’s admittance to the recognition of Jerusalem as its capital, but the United Nations has chosen a "peaceful, stable" solution which maintains two states with Jerusalem is the common capital: the East is the capital of Palestine while the West is the capital of Israel. The Resolution 58/292 of the General Assembly of the United Nations confirmed that Palestine has sovereignty over East Jerusalem. It is clearly defined in international law that Israel cannot change Jerusalem's position through military means. The article IV of the Geneva Convention provides for long-term occupation and opposition to the occupied country who changes the status of the area under their control. After the six-day war in 1967, Israel captured the citadel and other locations in East Jerusalem. Since then, the Ten Aviv government has controlled the ancient city of Jerusalem, and then declared that both the East and the West were the indissoluble capital of Israel.

For America - Israel's closest ally, since its recognition of the State of Israel (1948), Washington has always been in favor of Ten Aviv, which is still announced in accordance with international law and the consensus of the world. Accordingly, the US Congress passed a number of laws which are in favor of Israel; in which, the Act of the Jerusalem Embassy signed in 1995 authorizes the President of the United States to sign a waiver every six months to avoid making provocative decisions. And then, the U.S presidents all periodically sign the waiver.

Right in the candidacy campaign for 2016 election, candidate Donald Trump has committed to strictly enforce this law in order to take advantage of the support of the tycoons and voters who are American Jews. Thus, the Jewish billionaires donated quite generously to his campaign. However, after taking office, Donald Trump also signed a waiver of the implementation of the law like the previous presidents. On December 6th, 2017, President Donald Trump unexpectedly made the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and at the same time instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to transfer the U.S Embassy from Ten Aviv to Jerusalem. In addition, he also required American diplomats to clarify to the world opinion that "Jerusalem is still one of the problems of the final solution between Israel and the Palestine", meaning that the two sides must continue to negotiate to determine the extent of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. In theory, President Donald Trump absolutely has the right to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine to reaffirm Washington's commitment to the “two states" solution in the region, contributing to the enhancement of the U.S position. But instead of doing so, he was totally in favor of Israel, causing many dangerous consequences not only in the region but also in the whole world.

The consequences followed by the President Donald Trump’s decision

The first consequence, which was caused by the President Donald Trump’s decision on recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, was the dissension among the rulers of Washington. The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Mike Pompeo oppose President Donald Trump’s decision through the argument that this action threatened the U.S interests in the Arab and Islamic world, undermining US patronage over the Middle East peace process, causing a new wave of violence in the Palestinian occupied territories, leaving the United States isolated from the world. Meanwhile, the US Vice President Mike Pence, the U.S Ambassador to the United Nations and Israel and some other politicians backed the decision with the argument that the declaration would contribute to strengthening the Israeli belief in President Donald Trump, thereby creating the situation in which he can offer a final agreement framework between Israel and Palestine. Across the United States, pro-Palestinian groups have called on people to protest against President Donald Trump’s decision. The U.S President's decision goes against the top priority Washington has set, which is to fight against terrorism, in the problem of the Middle East. This could be the "perfect excuse" for terrorist organizations to mobilize forces against the United States. In response to this situation, Washington has established a group of task force to "monitor global developments" in order to assess and consider the negative impact on the U.S facilities and citizens in foreign countries.

The U.S President's decision also met with opposition from the Israeli people themselves. According to an Israeli newspaper on December 25th, 2017, shortly after President Donald Trump declared to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, 25 reputable people of this country including the former ambassadors Ilan Baruch, Alon Liel, academicians and peace activists sent a letter to the U.S Presidential special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt to oppose the decision. The letter reads: "The Jerusalem City Regulation, which is the core issue of the Palestinian - Israeli conflict, must be decided through a comprehensive solution. The President Donald Trump’s declaration on the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel disregarded the aspiration of the Palestinians, deepening disagreements between the two sides which could lead to an outbreak in the whole region”. In the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, thousands of people flocked to the streets, waved Palestine's flag and chanted the slogan "Jerusalem is our outer capital". The Israeli Defense Force fired tear-shells on the crowds of protesters, causing more than 1,000 casualties and dozens of arrests.

A protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision on the West Bank
and Gaza Strip (photo: AP)

On December 21st, 2017, the UN General Assembly convened to urgently discuss the United States’ unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Because the United States has no veto power in the United Nations General Assembly, this resolution was passed with 128 member states voting in favor and only nine states voting against, regardless of the U.S President Donald Trump’s earlier intimidation of cutting financial aid for countries voting in favor of the UN draft resolution which calls for the U.S withdrawal of its decision. The U.S administration has also put pressure on the Palestinian authority, such as threatening to close the office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington. Riyad Mansour, a Palestinian observer at the United Nations emphasized that the Palestinians would never accept religious excuses to justify the annexation of the territory, and that the President Donald Trump's decision would not affect Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem, but would affect the US role as a mediator.

It can be seen that the U.S President's decision above will make the Arab and Muslim countries more united. The Palestinian people’s cause of struggle is receiving unprecedented widespread support after the declaration of recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A wave of opposition to this decision has exploded in the Middle East and around the world. The Arab League (AL) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have urgently convened to express their opposition against this decision by President Donald Trump and to affirm that a long-term and solid solution to the conflict must include the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with the capital East Jerusalem besides the Israeli State. Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said the U.S President Donald Trump’s decision would endanger the regional peace and security. "The President Donald Trump’s decision could be used by terrorists to provoke anger in the region”, the King Abdullah II of Jordan warned. In opposition to U.S President Donald Trump’s decision, on December 17th, 2017, the President of Turkey Erdoğan said that Ankara desired to open the embassy in the East Jerusalem. And Turkey's Prime Minister Yıldırım said: "Those who miscalculate about Jerusalem will have regret. Turkey will never let the Palestinians be oppressed, or disappear from their territory". Moreover, thousands of Turkish people continue to march to express their opposition against the U.S President's decision and to demonstrate their solidarity with the Palestinians through the slogan: "We will not be silent until Jerusalem is liberated from the occupation of the Jews". Many Turkish government and parliament officials also participated in the rally.

In Southeast Asia, in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on December 17th, 2017, about 80,000 Muslims participated in a protest against the U.S President's decision. On December 22nd, 2017, speaking to about 1,500 protesters in Putrajaya, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak claimed to oppose against the U.S President Donald Trump’s decision at all costs. He said he would continue to fight, use all means through political and diplomatic channels, discuss and "pray" until Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians. Earlier, the Malaysian Defense Minister announced that he was ready to send troops to Jerusalem when ordered.

In Europe, the European Union (EU) says it will not support the U.S President's decision. The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs Mogherini flatly rejected the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's proposal concerning that the Europe should support the United States in its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. Even Israel's closest allies in the European Union did not accept Netanyahu's argument and debated that the Israeli unilateral recognition of capital will bring about the risk of inciting violence and undermining the region's peace prospects. Most of the European Union member states, including major countries of the bloc expressed their concern about the dramatic change in President Donald Trump's foreign policy. In Germany, on December 16th, 2017, about 1,000 people took part in a protest in the city of Frankfurt to oppose against the U.S President's decision. Earlier, about 2,500 protesters in the capital of Berlin opposed the decision. In this demonstration, an Israeli flag was burned.

For Palestine, the December of 2017 marked the 30th anniversary of the first Palestinian resistance movement, which was known as "Intifada", when the Palestinians rose up against the Israeli 40 years of occupation and repression since the "Nakba" incident in 1948. Nakba Day, which means “Day of the Catastrophe”, is used to describe the fact that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to leave their home or run away when Israel declared the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. The U.S President’s decision on recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital is likely to launch a wave of new "Intifada" under the context in which the Palestinian people and their supporters from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to cities around the world rise up to fight against the U.S and Israel. One of the Hezbollah leaders, Akram al-Kaabi, said: "The President Donald Trump’s unusual decision will trigger Israeli elimination from the Muslim states community and will be a good pretext for many Middle East armed forces to attack American troops occupying the territory of some countries in the region".

On December 19th, 2017, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent delegations to Russia and China with the hope of picking international counterparts to replace the United States as mediator for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, because he no longer accepted the U.S as a mediator after the event. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said Moscow has no doubt about the alarming level of the situation around Jerusalem and will try to bring it back to the constructive dialogue channel. Commenting on the U.S decision to veto the UN Security Council resolution on Jerusalem on December 18th, 2017, he said that Washington had applied the approach that “goes against the will of the whole world”.

It is clear that the President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem not only caused a lot of dangerous consequences for the peace and security in the Middle East but also put the United States into an unprecedented isolation in its history.

Senior Colonel Le The Mau

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