BY: OSSAMA AYESH
At the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, December 21, 2017, 128 countries across the international community denounced the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which was a remarkable break from longstanding US policy. The UN General Assembly vote on the non-binding resolution follows a similar UN Security Council resolution that was vetoed by the United States on December 18, 2017. US President Donald J. Trump threatened to retaliate against any UN member state that voted in favor of the resolution, linking the vote to future US foreign aid and assistance, stating, “let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.” Collectively, the UN General Assemblyvoted 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, for a resolution that demanded the US rescind its declaration and recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Much of the international community believes the fate of Jerusalem should not be left to the US. At a summit earlier last week, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation(OIC) declared East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, effectively rejecting the US stance. The 57-member international organization called on the international community to follow in its footsteps.
WHY IT MATTERS:
Even though the General Assembly Resolution is non-binding, it sends a strong message to the United States. Most of the US’ closest allies, namely the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan, are not only distancing themselves from the US’ decision to recognize the contested holy city as Israel’s capital but seem to vehemently disagree with this decision. By moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the US has jeopardized its role as a broker of peace in the region and complicated its relationship with its allies in the Middle East even further. In addition, this move has the potential to cause disruptions in the daily lives of many American citizens working or residing in the Middle East, including the US military. The willingness of other nations to ignore the US’ threats to cut aid suggests that the overwhelming majority of the international community is adamant about rejecting the US’ stance on the status of Jerusalem.
In 1995, the US Congress passed a law called the “Jerusalem Embassy Act” which formally recognized the city as Israel’s capital and called for the US embassy in Israel to be moved there. Since Jerusalem has been the toughest point of negotiations between Israel and Palestine, US presidents from both parties have invoked waivers to delay the move. What President Trump has effectively done is diminish what little opportunity the US had to broker peace between Israeli and Palestinian people. The move by the US gives no stake to Palestinians in Jerusalem or anywhere else, which is likely to deter Palestinians from negotiating with the US until its declaration is reversed. Increased friction following outbreaks of riots in the region has further complicated an already complex political landscape in the occupied territories.
Most recently, the Hamas chief announced that the Palestinian unity deal between Hamas and Fatah was collapsing. The peace came to a halt in 2014 when Israel and the US asked for Hamas to be disarmed before peace efforts could continue. More broadly, Trump’s announcement could trigger violence in an already volatile region and greatly impede US relations with Arab countries, including many of its Gulf allies. Al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State could use the move to boost their messaging strategy. While the consequences for this decree continue to unfold, Mr. Trump’s announcement marks the latest escalation that has seen the US widely criticized and isolated.