Trump's controversial move on Jerusalem risks inflaming tensions in Mideast, could backfire

Source
Xinhuanet
Editor
Li Jiayao
Time
2017-12-07

CAIRO, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday in defiance of strong opposition from the Muslim world is set to backfire as it will inflame the tensions in the Middle East.

In a dramatic departure from his predecessors' foreign policy, Trump not only recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli capital, but also starts the process of moving the U.S. embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv. Though welcomed by Israel, the move will enrage the whole Muslim world which has already warned against the dangerous repercussions.

The status of Jerusalem, revered by Muslims as the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site by Jews, lies at the core of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

Under the Oslo peace process, Jerusalem's status should be decided in the Israeli-Palestinian final-status talks. The Palestinians insist that they will establish an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital in the final settlement.

Though Israel took over East Jerusalem during the 1967 war and Israel's parliament passed a law in 1980 to unilaterally declare the holy city as its eternal indivisible capital, the international community by large does not recognize the Israeli move.

All countries, including the U.S., have so far located their embassies in Tel Aviv instead of Jerusalem, in order to let Israel and the Palestinians to decide the final status of Jerusalem through negotiations.

Even after the U.S. Congress passed a law in 1995 to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Trump's three predecessors repeatedly ordered to halt the move by presidential decrees, so as to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Trump, with a Jewish son-in-law, has widely publicized his pro-Israeli stance even since the start of his presidential campaign by promising to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

But his decision to change the status quo of Jerusalem is not only a misjudgment, but also a dangerous step.

By taking the step, Trump seems to have placed a bet on the division among Muslim countries in the Middle East which he hopes will prevent them from uniting against the U.S. over Jerusalem.

Indeed, the division has been well illustrated by the recent standoff between Qatar and a Saudi Arabia-led Arab bloc, and the growing rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Meanwhile, many Arab countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, are plagued by constant threats from terrorism and political instability.

But Trump has apparently underestimated the great sensitivity of the Jerusalem issue and the risks of changing its status quo. Jerusalem is one of a few issues that can rally all Muslim countries against the U.S. despite their differences and disputes.

The Palestinians, already disappointed with the protracted stalemate in the peace process since 2014, could resort to violence to express their anger and despair.

Furthermore, the rage of Muslims worldwide at the U.S. move and their sympathy with the Palestinians could be taken advantage of by terrorists and extremist groups to win Muslim support to their causes, including attacks against U.S. targets.

Renewed violence in the Palestinian territories, further instability in the Middle East, and a possible surge in terror attacks will certainly backfire. In the end, the U.S. will have to pay a heavy price for it.

 

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