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The Jerusalem decision.

The Presidency of Donald Trump has been beset by controversy from the outset. The decision to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem at the same time as declaring that the US recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, may prove to be the defining controversy of his first year in office. The decision was not unexpected, in large part because it was a prominent campaign pledge and one that he has decided to redeem. He made the announcement, Vice-President Pence standing behind him, in a short speech that superficially sought to appease the Palestinians who also claim Jerusalem as their capital and lay to rest the fears and concerns of a wider world that is made up of the adherents to the three Abrahamic faiths Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Judging by the response around the world he failed to mollify, satisfy or appease a basket of nations and leaders of all three faiths.

The decision by President Trump usurps the precedents that have become normative for decades and in the opinion of many has put the Two-State Solution into deep freeze. Eight countries of the 15-member United Nations Security Council, including the UK, France and Italy, have called for an emergency meeting on Friday 8th December. Palestine and Turkey claim that the Trump recognition and the decision to move the American embassy are in breach of international law and the UN resolutions. The Palestinians have promised days of rage and most American allies in the Middle East, including and crucially Saudi Arabia which called it 'unjustified and irresponsible' have expressed varying degrees of dismay. The decision was welcomed by Israeli PM Netanyahu who called it a 'courageous and just decision' and 'historic.'

Thus far all of the above was entirely predictable. There was almost unanimous global opposition to the move but Trump had a domestic audience to please and a promise to keep. His negligible grasp of the subtleties of foreign policy was never more evidently displayed, and is not necessarily reflected by his close advisers such as Jared Kushner, his son-in-law who currently holds the portfolio for peace in the Middle East. There had been back-channel preparatory work anticipatory of reactions. Reuters is reporting that the US had asked the Israelis to be moderate in their response, and that the Europeans were to understand that the Trump decision was in no way a prejudgment of the 'final status' of Jerusalem and its sovereignty. If the Europeans got the memo they clearly decided not to read it.

What is not predictable, in virtually any direction one cares to look, is what happens now. The physical move of the embassy to Jerusalem is going to take at least two years even if construction starts this year. The peace process had to all intents and purposes been moribund since John Kerry failed to revive it in 2014. All sides are saying that the Jerusalem question has to be resolved between the Palestinians and the Israelis before any peace moves are even thinkable never mind possible. The illegal Israeli settlers on Palestinian land will be buoyed up, the Palestinians confounded and downhearted. An unknown number of extremist groups across the Arab world are going to be preparing reactions that are unlikely to be peaceful in intent or execution. A broadside from a long deck of loose cannons may be expected. The American relationship with Nato may be threatened if Turkey decides to pull the plug on the agreements that allow American airbases on Turkish soil. There are implications for trading relationships too. The post-Brexit trading environment between the UK and the US is already deeply speculative and the British PM has called the Trump decision 'wrong.' This is not the end of civilisation as we know it, but the outcome is going to be suffering. A lot of suffering.
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Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Dec 8, 2017
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