Trump Is Making a Huge Mistake on Jerusalem By HANAN ASHRAWI DEC. 7, 2017Dec. 7, 2017, midnight
Published in the New York Times
President Trump announced on Wednesday that his administration is making a radical break with nearly 70 years of official United States policy and with the international community: He is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
This decision will be interpreted by Palestinians, Arabs and the rest of the world as a major provocation. It will cause irreparable harm to Mr. Trump’s own plans to make peace in the Middle East, and to any future administration’s efforts, as well. It will also undermine the United States’ own national security. The president should reconsider this decision immediately.
Since Israel was established in 1948, the United Nations and the United States, like most countries, have refused to recognize any country’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, a city holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians.
For this reason, the United States has always maintained its embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv. Since Israel militarily occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the United States and the international community have rejected as illegal Israel’s attempts to cement its control over the city by expanding its boundaries, annexing it and constructing a ring of settlements on occupied Palestinian land around its outskirts to sever it from the rest of the West Bank.
With his announcement on Wednesday, Mr. Trump has legitimized Israel’s illegal actions and sent the message that the United States no longer has any regard for international conventions or norms, and that might and power prevail over justice and the law.
Perhaps this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Members of Israel’s hard-right government were overjoyed at Mr. Trump’s election, believing they would have a free rein to accelerate the expansion of settlements. The president’s selection of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to lead his administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and the appointment of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel, both of whom have ties to Israel’s settlement movement, further emboldened the settlers and their supporters in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Indeed, Israel has expanded its settlements over the past year.
By rewarding its claim on Jerusalem with official recognition, Mr. Trump is giving Israel a free hand to accelerate its policies of creeping annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories and its deliberate attempts to erase the Palestinians’ historical, political, cultural and demographic presence in historic Palestine.
This will encourage Israeli officials to further intensify their violations of Palestinian rights in the city; more Palestinian homes will be destroyed and more Palestinian families made homeless. (Since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, Israeli authorities have, according to the United Nations, destroyed some 20,000 Palestinian homes in the city.) It will also mean more Palestinian land stolen for settlements and more Palestinian Jerusalemites will have their right to reside in the city where they were born and raised and where their families still live revoked by Israel, as it has done to more than 14,000 Palestinians since 1967, according to human rights groups. And it will fuel further calls from right-wing Israelis, including members of Mr. Netanyahu’s government, to annex parts or all of the West Bank: After all, if the United States has given its stamp of approval to the annexation of Jerusalem, why shouldn’t right-wing Israelis believe it will one day do the same with more territory?
Moreover, the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as part of Israel could embolden messianic Jewish extremists — some of whom are supported by Israeli government officials — who want to build a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in the Old City of East Jerusalem, one of the most sensitive religious sites in the world. This could easily ignite a major religious conflagration in the Middle East and beyond with an outcome that cannot be predicted.
Wednesday’s announcement may finally put to rest the dream of a two-state solution, which has been on life support for years already — after more than 25 years as the United States government’s official goal. For if all of Jerusalem is part of Israel, then East Jerusalem cannot be the capital of a Palestinian state, rendering the idea of two states living side by side in peace obsolete.
If that is not enough to persuade Mr. Trump to change his mind, he should listen to the advice of his own secretary of defense, James Mattis. In 2013, when he was the head of the United States Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, Mr. Mattis saidthat he “paid a military security price every day” because the United States was “seen as biased in support of Israel.” American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital exacerbates this problem exponentially.
It is our hope as Palestinians that saner voices will prevail and that the United States will refrain from any actions that will further destabilize the Middle East. If Mr. Trump truly wishes to have a chance at making peace, he must reverse his decision on Jerusalem immediately.
Hanan Ashrawi is a Palestinian lawmaker and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.