Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“This changes the entire ballgame”

What has Washington achieved by moving its embassy to Jerusalem?
22 May, 2018 - 11:42
REUTERS photo

On May 14, US President Donald Trump fulfilled his election promise and moved his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognizing this city as capital of Israel. He did not take part in the ceremony but addressed participants from TV screens. Trump emphasized that, like any other country, Israel has the right to choose its capital and stressed the importance of a dialog between Israel and Palestine. “The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement,” he said. On his part, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel has no better friend than America and thanked the US for support, the Voice of America reports.

As the ceremony in Jerusalem was underway, clashes were in full swing in the Gaza Strip. The fire opened by the Israeli military at Palestinians left 58 people dead and about 2,000 wounded. This is the largest number of the killed since 2014, the BBC reports. The Israeli government head defended the actions of soldiers, saying: “Every country has the obligation to protect its borders.”

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has declared three-day mourning for the dead, saying that he will conduct no peace negotiations even if the US invites him to do so, Euronews quotes him as saying.

REACTION OF THE WORLD

President Emmanuel Macron of France condemned the use of live fire by Israeli forces in Gaza. Britain’s Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, noted that this situation aroused concern, Reuters reports. “We continue to implore Israel to show greater restraint,” he said. Germany’s foreign ministry reminded Israel that “the principle of proportionality applies. This also includes the use of live ammunition only if other, less harmful, methods of deterrence do not succeed” (i24news.tv). Turkey, it turn, recalled its ambassadors to the US and Israel. “What Israel has done is genocide. I condemn this humanitarian drama, the genocide, from whichever side it comes, Israel or America,” DW quotes Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying.

It will be recalled that Ukraine expressed its attitude to this problem as far back as December 2017. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that Kyiv “favors a full observation of the norms of international law and fulfillment of the UN Security Council’s resolutions on the status of Jerusalem” and that the international community should “compel the two sides to immediately resume negotiations on a peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict.”

There was also a mixed reaction in the US itself to the decision to move the capital to Jerusalem. For example, Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted: “Lots of people saying US had right to move embassy to Jerusalem. Of course it did. But having a right is not the same as being right. No discernible upside and considerable downside: US played a big card for nothing, weakened its claim to be honest broker, helped to fuel violence.”

“NOW PALESTINIANS HAVE CALLED INTO QUESTION THE STATUS OF THE U.S. AS A MEDIATOR IN PEACE NEGOTIATIONS”

Oleksandr BOHOMOLOV, President of the Center for Middle East Studies, comments on the situation to The Day:

“The US Congress made this decision by a majority vote about 10 years ago, and all the presidents had the right to delay its coming into force by six months. So when it is said that Trump has made some decision, it is a bit of an exaggeration, even though it was part of his election program. But the point is that this means to do not something absolutely new and unexpected but what has long been expected. It is the American point of view.

“From another, particularly Arab and it this case Palestinian, viewpoint, this decision should be regarded in the context of key constants of negotiations with Israel, where determination of the status of Jerusalem is a very important point. Within the framework of the peace process that began in the times of Yaser Arafat, the Palestinians consider East Jerusalem their capital, and they are prepared to accept the entitlement of Israel to West Jerusalem. When Trump moves the embassy, he does not speak concretely about the problem of a partitioned city – he moves it to Jerusalem in principle. This is the crucial moment of the decision, which irks, first of all, the Palestinian and other Arabs and is not accepted by the international community, including European countries. For this reason, this decision was supported by a limited number of countries only.

“Now, by coincidence, is the 70th anniversary of the expulsion of Palestinians from the territory of present-day Israel – what the Arabs call ‘naqba,’ i.e., catastrophe. They are marking it by way of rather intensive protests in the Gaza Strip, where, as we know, quite a few people died.”

What kind of events should we expect from now on?

“I do not think this will lead to a dramatic aggravation. The important consequence is that the Palestinians have called into question the status of the US as a mediator in peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel. In the past few decades, the US has been the only initiator of continuing the peace process. Now that the Palestinians have called this into question and in fact refused to accept this status of the US, the situation is very unpredictable. This casts doubt on the very possibility of a settlement between Israel and Palestine.”

Turkey has recalled” its ambassadors to Washington and Tel Aviv “for consultations.” What does it mean?

“They are taking a tough pro-Palestinian position, and this is in sharp contrast with the history of close relations between Turkey and Israel for many years before the AKP [Justice and Development Party. – Ed.] came to power.”

What can ease tension?

“Tension is just a reaction. Can this provoke radicalization and acts of terror? Yes, obviously, the organizations that do this will be further used as an argument in armed struggle. Of course, this should be taken into account.

“But what deserves more attention is a change of realities around the conflict. This in fact changes the entire ballgame. Maybe, the US will be unable to act as a key negotiator, the engine of the peace process, although the latter has in fact ground to a halt. It is unclear whether and how it will resume. For there will be different kinds of aggravation – it will be a consistent and hopeless conflict of low intensity. The situation is becoming a deadlock. But we must admit that it has really been like this in the last while. And the peace process and the negotiations that were held on the initiative of the US, particularly the Obama administration, were also of a ritual and vacuous nature, for they resulted in nothing. But, for a certain part of society, this still symbolized the possibility of reaching a peace settlement.”

Who could replace the US as a mediator?

“There will be perhaps attempts to make the EU assume this role, or EU leading states themselves will display initiative. Macron may take interest in this matter. As a former colonial power, France is traditionally not indifferent to the Middle East.

“Maybe, Russia will come up with some initiatives. It is now the moment they may try to take advantage of. They are willing to cash in on the failures of others – this position is called opportunism. This happened in Syria, when the Obama administration in fact dropped this subject. Therefore, Moscow may be more active in this direction, all the more so that the Palestinians have always been pro-Russian.”

By Natalia PUSHKARUK, The Day
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