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Adding fuel to fire

  • Published at 06:27 pm December 20th, 2017
  • Last updated at 10:16 am December 21st, 2017
Adding fuel to fire
The world is deeply alarmed by the decision of Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump’s move to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem adds fuel to the existing tension in the Middle East, and agitates the prospect of peace in the volatile region. Acknowledging this recognition as a part of reality, President Trump has asserted that it is the right choice made by the current administration to embrace this decision, as the world fails to have a lasting peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, despite making several efforts of reconciliation over the last two decades. Following the same formula to restore peace will be an act of imbecility, Donald Trump says. However, Trump has professed that the US is not taking any position on the issues regarding the boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. It is predicted that Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem may stymie the peace process and accelerate security risk in the region. This decision has, undoubtedly, upended the seven decades of US foreign policy preceding it. The most delighted recipient of Trump’s decision is none other than the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Claiming this decision as an important step towards peace, Netanyahu says the inclusion of Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel will bring a progress towards achieving stability. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the decision as it will provide extremist organisations to wage more religious violence -- eventually, turning it into a perpetual war. The Trump administration is trying to entrench Israel’s dominance in Jerusalem through this move, senior administration officials have acknowledged that it will take a couple of years for the US to build the new embassy in Jerusalem. Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will not be a significant challenge as there is already a US consulate office in Jerusalem, but the US does not plan to turn this consulate office into an embassy, so far.
While Bill Clinton decided to walk down the path of peace by valuing the opinions of the Arab world, President Trump is poised to implement the 1995 congressional bill
Rather, the State Department has already been ordered to follow the presidential directive to start hiring architects and building contractors to build an embassy as America’s “tribute to peace” in Israel and Palestine. However, the concept of relocating Israel’s capital from Tel Aviv to a commercial capital such as Jerusalem is not a new policy put forth by the US congress. In 1995, 10 days before his assassination, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin delivered a speech in Washington about the city of Jerusalem, claiming that Jerusalem was not a subject to compromise. In the meantime, Congress passed a bill called “Jerusalem Embassy Act” reflecting Rabin’s assertion about the city. With the proposal to move the capital to Jerusalem, the bill states that the US embassy in Israel is to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1999. The bill received overwhelming response with 93 “yes” votes and five “no” votes from the Senate and 347 “yes” votes and 37 “no” votes from the House. Despite this overwhelming response, the bill was not signed into law by US President Bill Clinton, considering the opposition to this bill are the Arab friends of America. Intimidated by the fact that this bill could stymie the peace progress, Clinton used the legislation’s waiver authority to avoid damage to the peace process. Rather, Clinton chose to forge the Oslo peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians, signed in 1993 and 1995. Undoubtedly, the waiver authority was a critical escape tunnel for former US President Clinton and his successors. The then Kansas Senator Bob Dole introduced this legislation and its provision allowed the president to postpone implementation of the move for six months on the grounds of national security. Former US President Barack Obama also used this waiver of congressional instruction every six months and delayed the move of the embassy. But, President Trump has chosen to do what several presidents before him only promised to do. Since the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) and the prime minister’s office are situated in Jerusalem, the US has acknowledged that pretending to deny Israel’s existence in Jerusalem might be a common fantasy in the Islamic world, but the US considers it a fact. While Bill Clinton decided to walk down the path of peace valuing the opinions of the Arab world, President Trump is poised to implement the 1995 congressional bill. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already called on the main pan-Islamic body, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in an emergency summit, seeking a coordinated response to the recognition, but defiant Trump seems less concerned about the opinion of the Islamic world unlike former US presidents. Labiba Faiaz Bari is a freelance contributor.