President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not only a clear violation of international law, but a moral outrage when it comes to its acquiescence in apartheid, ethnic cleansing and the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people.
Delivered with the insouciance of a mafia don parcelling out territory to one of his capos, in this instance Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump’s announcement did not so much signal the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as it did provide confirmation that the US and Israel are rogue states.
Under the stewardship of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has embraced with unfailing ardour a rejectionist stance when it comes to a Palestinian state. He knows that peace, a viable peace, cannot exist and will never exist unless justice for the Palestinians is placed at its heart. Hitherto the Israeli prime minister had stood isolated in his obduracy – even if opposition to it had been more sotto voce than meaningful on the part of a supine international community – but now in Trump his greatest dream has come true, providing him with a willing partner in his refusal to depart as much as an inch from his embrace of Israeli exceptionalism and belief that Israel’s right to the land of Palestine is inviolate.
In truth, of course, Israel has never and will never have any right to Palestinian land – unless, that is, religious and biblical obscurantism, buttressed by settler colonialism, is the kernel of international law and diplomacy in the 21st century.
Jerusalem is unequivocally and indisputably a part of occupied Palestine, adjudged such by both the General Assembly and Security Council of the United Nations. Its ooccupation also constitutes a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, specifically Article 49 concerning forced transfer and deportations of civilians out of an occupied territory, and the transfer of its own civilians into said territory.
Thus the violation of international law reflected in the assumption of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is clear and inarguable, just as it has been over its decades-long occupation. What has been lacking, and grievously, throughout this time is the requisite will on the part of the international community to take serious measures by which to compel Israel to conform to its obligations under international law as a UN member state.
The only reason Israel has been able to continue to flout those obligations is its longstanding alliance with Washington, providing it with unparalleled military, financial, and military support. The bond which the political establishments of both countries share is long and, in the inimitable words of the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama, “unbreakable.”
The point surely, though, is that no one is asking or expecting it to be broken. All people who are of goodwill expect, and are entitled to expect, is that Washington – with the extirpation of its own indigenous population as part of its own shameful history – stand on the side of international law (the operative word here being ‘international’) instead of being complicit in its breach, as it has been and continues to be when it comes to its support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Trump’s recklessness and disregard for the craft of diplomacy has once again thrown a metaphoric hand grenade into the midst of an issue and region that needs another incendiary development like a malnourished man needs to go on a crash diet. Does the current US president think this is a game? Does he understand that he’s supposed to be the leader of the most powerful country in the world and not a recurring character in The Sopranos?
The barrage of criticism that has met this development from across the world tells its own story. It is a development which constitutes the final nail in the coffin of the Middle East peace process, pushing the Palestinians down the path towards physical resistance in the form of a third intifada as a consequence.
Who could possibly blame them? Decades spent existing under the brute heel of occupation in the West Bank – where Jewish only illegal settlements have expanded and continue to spread, where hundreds of checkpoints are a daily reminder of their subjugation and degradation, occupied land the natural resources of which have and continue to be expropriated – can only but leave a sour taste. Meanwhile, Gaza continues to exist under a siege that amounts to collective punishment, one that evinces no sign of abating anytime soon. Taken together, the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ has been engaged in a mass experiment in human despair.
Ironically, such a brazen move by Trump can only weaken rather than increase Israel’s security. It will serve to marginalize moderate Palestinian voices and allow more radical ones to come to the fore, able to point to this measure as irrefutable evidence of the futility of a diplomatic solution to the crisis, attracting support for their belief in resistance by any means necessary, including, as mentioned, physical resistance. Increasingly, it seems this is the only language these thugs in tailored suits understand.
That Trump’s understanding of the Middle East, with all its complexities, is of insufficient breadth to fit on the back of a postage stamp, is not in dispute. Indeed it is tempting to ascribe to the 45th president the withering verdict of one of his predecessors, Lyndon Johnson – “so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time.”