Yasmin Helal reports on the far-reaching implications for war and peace of the decision by the Trump administration to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem

With the help of the Trump administration, Israel is shooting itself in the foot. After more than half a century of isolation in the region, the Jewish state had only just begun developing fruitful relations with neighbours like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. After decades of diplomacy and peace building efforts with its fiercest enemies, it’s all gone with the wind.

Arabs across the Middle East and Muslims around the world have expressed anger, and some have protested vehemently in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. This is only the beginning of the Middle East’s response to President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The act of relocating an embassy from one city to another seems almost trivial. But in this instance, by merely changing the address of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the negative impact will be felt not only by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but Trump as well.

High on the euphoria of fulfilling a long held promise made decades ago to move
the American embassy to Jerusalem – one that successive US presidents postponed for fear of invoking more violence and a deeper divide – it appears that neither Israel nor the US can see the risks that lie ahead.

Obviously, the UN didn’t defy Trump’s decision out of concern for the Palestinians. He should have seen through these warnings, which concern the interests of his own country in the Middle East and the security of his best friends in Israel.

The international community had stood by passively as Israel continued to commit atrocities against the Palestinians and the rapidly growing illegal Jewish settlements within the borders of what’s internationally recognised as Palestinian territory. Whether the UN really cares about the Palestinian crisis is therefore, now in question.

Few sympathise with the generations of exiled Palestinian mothers who have kept the keys of their demolished houses in extinct cities like Yafa and Akka to remind themselves of a land that they once called home. And certainly, not a thought was spared for the poverty-stricken residents of Gaza as UN members sat comfortably in cushioned chairs that probably cost twice the monthly wage of an average Palestinian.

However, what they do worry about is the prospect of more violence and another war. Which is why despite dire warnings by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley of cutting  aid to countries that opposed her nation, the majority of the UN General Assembly voted in December to reject Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Earlier in that month, the UN Security Council had drafted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem for its embassy. And even though the draft received the backing of 14 members, the US used its veto power to block the vote from being passed.

Previously, foreign embassies were based in Jerusalem but they all shifted to Tel Aviv as a rejection of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. Since then, Israel has been challenging the world, retaining the office of its prime minister, parliament, highest court and most of its ministries in Jerusalem.

According to experts, Trump’s move will eventually lead to a third uprising in Palestine as well as other Arab countries, impacting Israel’s already fragile relations with its neighbours and overshadowing US cooperation with its Arab allies.

Furthermore, the move will not accomplish anything tangible whether this be in favour of Israel or otherwise, other than trigger anger and violence in the region. Essentially, if Trump was eager to please Israel, he could’ve pursued a low profile strategy of calling the existing US consulate in West Jerusalem an embassy and saved his country the cost of building a new compound.

Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is also expected to embolden extremist movements – which is the leading cause of terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Europe and North America. One of the long-term consequences however, will be felt when it comes to the future of the two-state solution in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“If he says what he’s intending to say about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, it means a kiss of death to the two-state solution,” the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic representative to the UK Manuel Hassassian said in a press interview.

Hassassian added: “He is declaring war in the Middle East; he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims (and) hundreds of millions of Christians who are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel.”

On the other side of the argument, an Israeli policy researcher at RAND Corporation Shira Efron says there’s so much at stake. “The problem is that any perceived change in the status quo in Jerusalem or ‘Al-Quds’ as it’s known in the Arab world has explosive potential on the ground in the city itself and the broader region,” she told the media not long ago.

Numerous Arab and Muslim politicians and representatives have communicated warnings of such repercussions directly to Trump but to no avail. Or could it be that the US is attempting to incite a war in the region in order to sell more weapons in the near future?

We have no choice but to wait and see – or so it seems.