By Aloïs Aguettant, BA Politics and International Relations
On the 6th of December of 2017, Donald Trump once again defied overwhelming global opposition by officially recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a speech at the White House, the US president stated that he will deliver on his campaign promise by going forward with the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Despite Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s expectations that the move would be a fast process, it has been revealed that it would take several years. US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, communicated that it should take at least three years as Trump has directed the State Department to build an embassy from scratch that would be “a magnificent tribute to peace”. This act would symbolically cement Israeli sovereignty over the divided city, of which Palestinians constitute around 40% of its total population (according to B’tselem statistics). Trump said that he is finally delivering a long-kept promise, stating he has “judged this course of action to be in the best interest of the United States of America and in the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians”. This decision has indeed been part of previous presidential programs, however, it has consistently been postponed because of the fear that such a decision would undermine peace negotiations between the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Israel.
The reactions to Trump’s unilateral decision have been virulent. Protests and riots immediately erupted in Jerusalem and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These protests and riots were held on Friday following Jummah prayers and were violently repressed by the Israeli military, occasionally with live ammunition. Furthermore, numerous protests took place throughout the world, notably in Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia. Muslims took the streets to express their discontent and their refusal of Trump’s unilateral decision on the status of their Holy City. In the streets of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, casualties are heavy. In the month of December, at least 13 people have been killed by Israeli, with victims as young as 14 years old Mohammed Al-Dahoud in Gaza. Additionally, over the course of the month, 4,690 injuries due to confrontations have been reported by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and it is estimated over 500 Palestinians have been arrested.
Rejections of Trump’s declaration have been voiced by states around the world. Turkey and Saudi Arabia were among the first to strongly oppose it, the latter qualifying it as an “irresponsible ” act. Prime Minister Theresa May of the UK described Trump’s move as “unhelpful” for the two states solution. May stated she would speak to Trump on the issue but the occurrence of this is yet to be confirmed. Strong rejections against the unilateral US decision have been explicitly illustrated by the UN votes during the 10th Emergency Special Session on December 21st. The General Assembly “demanded” that all states comply with the Security Council resolutions concerning the status of Jerusalem and called upon all states to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem. Following an overwhelming vote of 128 against 9 and 35 abstentions. US Ambassador to the UN stated that “we will remember this” and threatened to cut funding to the international organisation. Haley added that “we are being asked to pay for the dubious privileges of being disrespected.” Following the vote, Israel’s Deputy Minister for Diplomacy called for Israel to cut its ties with the UN.
Conveniently, Trump’s decision was followed by Israeli Parliament passing an amendment proposed by the far-right Jewish Home coalition party to consolidates Israel’s control of Jerusalem. The amendment raises the number of votes required to approve any proposal to hand over part of the city to “a foreign party” from 61 to 80. This would make it harder to cede control of occupied East Jerusalem in the seemingly more and more unlikely two-states solution which states East Jerusalem will be Palestine’s capital.