Trump's Jerusalem decision will end all hope of Palestinian-Israeli peace

Trump's Jerusalem decision will end all hope of Palestinian-Israeli peace
President Donald Trump's contentious decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will likely be the death knell for hopes of peace.
4 min read
06 Dec, 2017
Jerusalem has been a symbol of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation [Getty]

Phone calls by US President Donald Trump to Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah II confirmed to anyone still in doubt that the current resident of the White House is unabashedly biased towards Israel.

Supporting Israel has been the hallmark of all previous US administrations, with the exception of one. All previous presidents have kept away from tinkering with the sensitivities of the peoples of the Middle East and the faithful followers of the monotheistic religions.

While in previous administrations Congress did all the heavy lifting for Israel and the pro-Israel lobby, while the executive branch and the State Department tried to retain the appearance of balance.

Public statements from all previous administrations followed the international consensus on the issue and presidents refused to publicly accept Israel's unilateral acts in Jerusalem.

International outrage

Israel's annexation of occupied East Jerusalem and the application of Israeli law in the holy city has been rejected by the entire international community. Every single country in the world has moved its embassy out of Jerusalem as an expression of their opposition to Israeli attempts at violating international law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention which regulates how an occupying power is to act, forbids Israel from carrying out any action that alters the legal and demographic nature of areas under its occupation.

The Trump administration has proven to be more cordial towards Israel than the US Congress. In 1985, a pro-Israel Congress passed the Jerusalem Act, which calls for restrictions to funding of State Department in Israel if the US administration fails to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. However, the act gave the administration the ability to delay such a move with a presidential waiver valid for six months. Every administration since then - both Democratic and Republican - have regularly signed the waiver and allowed the status-quo to prevail, until now.

One of this president's major donors is none other than the ultra-right-wing businessman Sheldon Adelson who has been pushing for more hawkish US action on the issue of Jerusalem, which many Israelis are not excited about it. They know it will lead to more Israeli and Palestinian blood being spilled and push back the chances of peace.

Blow to peace

Israeli media reported Monday that 25 former Israeli ambassadors, academics and peace activists "expressed their opposition to US President Donald Trump's potential unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in a letter to Trump's Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt".

Palestinians have consistently opposed any attempt by Israel, the US or any other party to act unilaterally when it comes to the status of Jerusalem. Former Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon's provocative entry to al-Aqsa Mosque in 2000 ignited violent opposition that resulted in the national-wide Second Intifada. Thousands of Palestinians and Israelis were killed and injured as a result of that single unilateral act.

Congress did all the heavy lifting for Israel and the pro-Israel lobby, while the executive branch and the State Department tried to retain the appearance of balance.

Last summer, Israel's attempts to place metal detectors at the entrances of al-Aqsa Mosque compound started weeks of huge demonstrations, while hundreds of thousands of Palestinians refused to enter the mosque. In the end. Israel retracted its unilateral decision.

Palestinian schools have declared Wednesday as a "day of anger" to discuss Jerusalem and its centrality to the Palestinian cause. Palestinian officials have said that the issue of Jerusalem is a deal breaker. Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem comes just days after the administration unveiled its so called "ultimate deal", and the decision on the embassy should end any chance of a new peace process beginning even before it starts. It is not clear what President Trump would gain from such a provocative move except to destroy the slim chance that his son-in-law Jared Kushner could restart the stalled peace process.

The current honeymoon period between Washington and Riyadh might be misguided by the Trump administration. It appears that they think that Jerusalem is simply a Palestinian issue, or judging by the phone calls Trump made on Tuesday a "Palestinian/Jordanian issue".

Jerusalem, however, is much bigger than that. It is an Arab and Islamic issue as well as an international issue for all faithful and peace-loving people around the world.

The US is totally mistaken if they think they can manage to stay relevant in the Middle East while providing naked an uncritical support for Israel and its decades’ long acts of aggression and occupation. 

If President Trump is serious about wanting to move the embassy, he can do it once a two-state solution is translated into reality. Then - and only then - can Israel declare West Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine can do the same with East Jerusalem. Short of that the US is playing with fire which will not be easily put out.


Daoud Kuttab is an award winning Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem. He is a columnist with al-Monitor and a former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Follow him on

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab and its editorial board or staff.