Donald Trump declares Jerusalem Israel's capital: US president has damaged UN, risks setting West Asia afire

By Bikram Vohra

No one is quite clear what the urgency was for US president Donald Trump to unilaterally sign the order recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And the haste with which the US is shifting its embassy seem extraordinarily insensitive.

File image of US president Donald Trump. Reuters

This is the city of the confluence of three major religions and they are cheek by jowl. The Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Wailing Wall (Western Wall or Kotel) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are among the most treasured sites of the Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths.

Although in 1980, Israel termed Jerusalem as the eternal capital after it annexed the eastern portion, this move had never really been recognised by the United Nations or the international community. Even Pope Francis cautioned Trump to hold back: “I cannot silence the deep concern that has emerged in recent days. At the same time, I appeal strongly for all to respect the city’s status quo in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions.”

In August 1980, the UN condemned the annexation of East Jerusalem and rejected the option of it being partly or wholly the capital city of Israel. It actually went on record issuing a warning to Tel Aviv and said any such claim was invalid.

Resolution 2334 was adopted on 23 December, 2016 and was passed 14-0 with only the US abstaining from the five veto powers. The resolution stated that Israel's settlement activity constitutes a "flagrant violation" of international law and has "no legal validity.”

Reacting to the Trump order, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said Jerusalem's status was an issue to be decided through negotiations. "In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear there is no alternative to the two-state solution," he said.

But at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, no one is listening.  By walking alone Trump has literally taken on the rest of the world. This is being seen as an act of war in Palestine and Hamas has already said it is preparing for violence in what could be start of the third intifada.

Turkish leaders said the region has been flung into the ‘ring of fire’ and the current conflict torn West Asia now faces a grenade from which the pin has been removed. The peace process is dead in the water and years of toil by statesmen and women has been washed away. The media has expresses rage at the crossing of the red line and believes the repercussions will be aggressive even as US embassies prepare for a brutal backlash.

France and the UK have criticised the move the general mood indicates outrage with even American ally Saudi Arabia calling it “irresponsible.” With Yemen already burning and the battle between the Islamic State and the coalition powers nowhere near an end, this confrontation could further destabilise the region and even eclipse the fissures in West Asia, creating not only an oil and gas crisis but also bruising most brutally commercial interests between the region and the US.

Ironically, with Iraq demanding the decision be reversed and Iran calling it an act that would "provoke Muslims" and lead to an "increase in radical, angry and violent behaviour," old enemies have found common ground and could well band together against The Great Satan in the West. The call to arms is shrill and loud is unlikely to subside. The fallout is real but unthinkable… this is a very flammable situation.

In the immediate future, the Hamas call to war is a matter of top concern. While White House bravado may sound like cowboy rhetoric, it ignores the ground reality and the ever-increasing circles of anger seen today. Trump explains himself thus: “I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It’s the right thing to do.”

This statement is going to appease no one. On the contrary by flying in the face of the UN he has single-handedly damaged that global entity, set afire West Asia and put every American at risk.