On Tuesday, 5th of December, President Donald Trump informed Mahmoud Abbas- President of the state of Palestine- of his plans to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. President Abbas according to his spokesperson, warned Trump that there would be dangerous consequences for this decision, not just to peace, security and stability in the region but, indeed, throughout the world. In true Trump “fashion”, instead of listening to concerns voiced by world leaders, he proceeded to not only move the US embassy, but to officially recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In this article, we discuss the implications such a decision is having and could have for the future of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and for international relations globally. But first, we’ve compiled a (brief) history of some of the key events that have taken place leading up to the situation at hand:
1799 – Palestine is offered as a homeland to Jews by Napoleon.
1885 – Zionism is coined as a term for the first time. According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘Zionism’ refers to “a movement for the re-establishment and the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.” It was then established as a political organisation in 1897 under German thinker Theodor Herzl.
1917 – Britain promises a “Jewish National Home” on Arab land as part of the Balfour Declaration.
1922 – The British mandate for Palestine is approved by the League of Nations with the purpose of helping establish a Jewish homeland.
1936 – A sixth-month long general strike takes place in Palestine in protest of Jewish immigration.
1938 – A series of attacks against Palestinians are launched by the armed Zionist group, Irgun.
1946 – The King David Hotel in Jerusalem is bombed by Irgun, killing 91 people.
1947 – Plans for partition are adopted by the UN in Resolution 181, which Palestinians reject.
February 1948 – An early example of ethnic cleansing takes place when Zionist forces attack the village of Qisarya near Haifa.
May 1948 – Regional conflict is sparked when the State of Israel is created and the US and Soviet Union immediately recognise it.
1950 – Administrative control of the West Bank (a chunk of land east of Israel, currently home to 2.6 million Palestinians) is assumed by Jordan.
1967 – Occupation of the entirety of historic Palestine (including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai) is then undertaken by Israel.
1973 – After the October War, the UN Security Council passes Resolution 338, calling for a ceasefire and for Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967.
1995 – The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) and Israel sign an interim agreement that grants the Palestinians some autonomy in certain parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
2002 – Following the second Intifada (Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation), Israel then reoccupies Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
2014 – Israel launches ‘Operation Protective Edge’, the biggest assault on Gaza since 1967.
Based on this short timeline alone, it is evident that the relationship between Israel and Palestine has been one ridden with tension, volatility and violence. So what makes Trump’s announcement so inflammatory and divisive now?
Jerusalem is famous not just because it has been the site of much protest over the years (including the second intifada in 2000), but because of its extraordinary diversity. It carries a uniqueness for being a major centre for three different religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. By recognising it as what is essentially “property” of Israel, Trump threatens the very stability of the city itself and fails to respect the rights and existence of the numerous different groups that live there.
In 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2334, reaffirming that Israel’s settlement enterprise was illegal. The UK helped draft the resolution, later voting in favour of it which is reflected in the fact that all major UK parties support a two-state solution based on diplomatic negotiations. Even the Conservative party line, as of 2015 is actually to support a two-state solution and defend the right of Israel to protect its security whilst also condemning illegal settlement building. It is a combination of all of these decisions and stances on Israel that emphasise the illegality of the occupation. This is why it is so concerning that Trump has chosen to instead go ahead with recognising such a controversial and hotly-debated city as Israel’s capital at a time as eruptive as this.
Abbas has not only condemned and rejected Trump’s decision, but even took to a televised address to express concerns that the relocation would only serve to incite extremist organisations in waging religious wars.
As soon as the announcement was made officially on Wednesday, Palestinians took to the streets of the Gaza Strip in protest, with Palestinian leaders calling for “three days of rage”. But what is perhaps most worrying is Ismail Haniya’s (leader of Hamas) response to Trump’s decision when he spoke to Al Jazeera:
“This decision is an uncalculated gamble that will know no limit to the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim reaction. We call for stopping this decision fully because this will usher in the beginning of a time of terrible transformations, not just on the Palestinian level but on the region as a whole. This decision means the official announcement of the end of the peace process.”
The unrest has done nothing but elevate since. Over the past week, protests have erupted in numerous Asian, Middle Eastern and North African cities. It is thought that at least two people have been killed and 25 injured in an alleged Israeli air raid on the Gaza Strip. Both President Abbas and the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II have refused to meet with Mike Pence during his visit to the region due to the United State’s new stance on Israel. The Malaysian defence minister has even reported that the announcement is “a slap in the face for the entire Muslim world” and that the “[Malaysian Armed Forces] has always been ready, waiting for instructions from the top leadership.”
As you can see, relations are rapidly crumbling and any hopes for peace talks, let alone a resolution, seem like a far-off dream. What lies in the future for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and, undeniably, international relations remains uncertain, but we can only assume that protests and unrest will continue to manifest globally.
We’ll keep you up-to-date on any new advances and if you’d like to share your opinion/perspective on the topic, please email your pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear what you have to say!
Written by Ella Nevill, 17