PARIS — Alone against everyone. U.S. President Donald Trump ignored all the warnings, stated in polite or pressing terms depending on the leader, and all pleas, even the Pope's, and duly announced Wednesday that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The reactions worldwide were of alarm and indignation, except for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who applauded on cue. It shows once more, for anyone who still doubted it, that Trump has no qualms about breaking taboos.
Clearly the United States under Trump is not satisfied with merely taking unilateral decisions and disregarding the views of even its closest allies. It has, it seems, decided to try to dismantle the entire international relations system that it had helped construct after World War II. Trump's announcement is quite simply an assault on diplomacy as the means of resolving conflicts.
Pursuant to the Oslo accords of 1993, signed under the aegis of the United States, Israel committed itself to negotiating the future of Jerusalem within the framework of a peace deal. King Abdullah II of Jordan, one of the Middle East's most moderate rulers, has underlined the "crucial" role of the Jerusalem question in attaining peace and stability in the region and the world. But sadly, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process launched in Oslo is today at a dead end.
He is guided by an obsession to break with his predecessors and by a domestic political calculation.
By lighting the Jerusalem fuse again, the U.S. president is openly risking exacerbating tensions and provoking more violence in a region already — and perpetually — on the verge of exploding. He has done this without even revealing any specific plans to restart peace talks, nor will sending Vice President Mike Pence to the Middle East lift much hope in that respect.
Even worse, Trump's decision is effectively giving his blessing to Netanyahu's fait accompli policies. While the Israeli government has been in Jerusalem since 1948, East Jerusalem was entirely Arab until 1967. Since then, the building of settlements has led to some 200,000 Israelis settling among the Palestinians and further complicating the issue of the city's final status. Trump says Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is already a "reality," while carefully omitting to mention East Jerusalem as the possible capital of a Palestinian state. Logically his reasoning confirms settlement building in the Occupied Territories as another "reality," regardless of international law.
And like diplomacy, international law is clearly absent from Trump's foreign policy parameters, which are entirely guided by his obsession to break with his predecessors and by a domestic political calculation that aims to satisfy evangelical Christians and the pro-Israel lobby.
The list of international commitments to which Trump has turned his back since entering office in January 2017 keeps expanding: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate accord, the Iranian nuclear deal, UNESCO, which the United States and Israel have abandoned, the World Trade Organization where U.S. representatives are increasingly unyielding, and most recently the United Nations Migrant and Refugee Compact. Add to these Trump's offensive speech on the multilateral system when addressing the UN General Assembly in September, and wrecking the U.S. diplomatic apparatus. The list is long enough to make U.S. allies understand that the world has entered a new era.
It is time now to recognize this reality. As with the Paris climate pact, the international community must figure out how best to circumvent a U.S. administration engaged in a dangerous game of destabilization around the world.
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