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Last Updated Monday August 10 2020 03:14 AM IST

Jerusalem as capital: The reason why there's still some method to Trump's madness

TP Sreenivasan
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Jerusalem as capital: The reason why there's still some method to Trump's madness

The pathetic isolation of the United States and its ally, Israel, with the support of banana republics like Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Palau was the consequence of president Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

It was not only a condemnation of a serious violation of international law, but also a total denunciation of the US threat to retaliate by denying assistance to those who supported the resolution.

A majority of the world’s nations rebuked the United States on Thursday, denouncing its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ignoring president Trump’s threats to retaliate by cutting aid to countries voting against it.

The United Nations General Assembly voted 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, for a resolution to demand that the United States rescind its December 6 declaration on Jerusalem, the contested holy city.

Major allies like Britain, France, Germany and Japan voted for the resolution, though some allies, like Australia and Canada, abstained. A few days after president Trump had declared India as a major partner in his National Security Strategy, India voted against the US.

The US diplomacy touched a new law when ambassador Nikki Haley stated: “We will remember it when we are called upon once again to make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

President Trump spoke even more ominously: “All of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us, potentially, at the Assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us.

“Well, we’re watching those votes,” he said, adding: “Let them vote against us; we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.” The US sought consolation by citing the 35 abstentions, coupled with 21 delegations that were absent, representing a significant chunk of the total membership of 193.

On December 6, 2017, in a few words, he introduced a new twist into the 3,500-year history of Jerusalem, which is sanctified by the faiths of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, reversed 70 years of American foreign policy, alienated the entire international community, including his best friends, except Israel by announcing that the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and its Embassy would be moved there from Tel Aviv, where every embassy is located today.

He pretended as though he compensated for the damage he had done by claiming that he still supported the two-nation solution and that he had left the borders of a divided Jerusalem to be determined by the people concerned.

"The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides," he said. He further stated that the United States was not taking a position on any "final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”

The reaction was exactly as predicted. Bloodshed began in the occupied territories, as the Palestinians poured out into the streets to get the decision reversed. Protest meetings were held in every corner of the globe.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held a summit meeting not only to condemn the US announcement, but also to make its own announcement that East Jerusalem would be the capital of an independent state of Palestine.

The president of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, stated that the US had lost its credibility as an honest broker in the peace process and that the US had isolated itself. He said that Trump has destroyed the two-state solution, warning the United States could no longer hope to be a peace broker.

Meanwhile, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, said that Trump's decision opened "the gates of hell on US interests in the region." They affirmed that facts of history and geography could not be changed by the US action.

Pope Francis joined a list of leaders warning of a historic misstep. "I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days," the pontiff said.

President Trump was merely keeping an election promise he made, aimed at 80 million evangelical Christians, who believe that Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is necessary for the second coming of Christ and the conservative Jews who had funded his campaign.

He had said that many former presidents of the US had made such promises, which were not kept. The others did not have the courage, he said. Obviously, the others were more thoughtful and conscious of the dangers of saying and doing the “darnedest of things”.

The reaction would have been much worse and a war would have erupted in a different age and time. President Trump was emboldened by the cataclysmic changes in the Arab world since the advent of the “Arab Spring” and the deep divisions within the Arab world.

Trump had also neutralized several strong supporters of Palestine, rendering them unable to unite in the hour of need. The OIC summit itself showed a certain lack of enthusiasm to confront him on this issue.

Some of these countries are either involved in other battles within their own traditional constituencies or engaged in confrontation with external powers. It is no wonder that Trump is able to make hay in the new sunshine.

Now that president Trump has struck a blow to peace at a time of his choice and the reaction is not likely to lead to war, could there be a method in his madness? Could there be a Plan B being hatched? Did he intend to administer shock therapy to unfreeze the situation that existed since president Yasser Arafat walked out of Camp David on the issue of Jerusalem? Is he looking beyond the negative reaction of the world to shape a new practical solution?

Though such a silver lining is not visible in the dark clouds that president Trump has unleashed, the chaos of today may lead to a churning of West Asia leading to the emergence of a magic solution. The declaration of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine by the OIC may be just the beginning of a new situation.

The word “disruption” has acquired a good connotation in technology as well as in global politics as innovation requires disrupting or even demolishing certain long-held beliefs.

Today, a disruptor may well be someone who might bring revolutionary changes, which might eventually turn out to be of advantage. President Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem has opened the Pandora’s Box and chaos and confusion may pave the way for a solution to the festering Israel Palestine conflict.

This fond hope still remains alive in spite of the evil that president Trump has generated. A historian has observed that the one thing that history of Jerusalem has taught us is that nothing is irreversible. Perhaps, the American decision would be reversed in such a manner that the world might stumble upon a solution and end the conflict in West Asia.

India’s response to the American statement is measured, politically correct and realistic, for a nation, which has passionately espoused the Palestinian case and also developed a mutually beneficial relationship with Israel. Perhaps, the vacuum left by president Trump in the peace process may well open an opportunity for India to explore new possibilities.

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