The latest disaster in US foreign policy since Donald Trump’s notoriously tiny hands grabbed hold of the levers of US power is the uni-lateral decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump’s decision and his failure to gain significant backing for the move at the United Nations, have dominated recent international coverage of Israeli politics and current affairs. Conveniently for the Israeli government, it has overshadowed the corruption investigations currently engulfing the Israeli Prime Minister and resident waxwork, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Any realistic Israeli-Palestinian peace process will have to address the question of Jerusalem, a sacred site for Muslims, Jews and Christians alike. The obvious problem that remains to be ironed out is that both Palestinian and Israeli administrations claim Jerusalem to be their respective capital.
Broadly speaking, for the last seventy-odd years, the international community has considered the issue of Jerusalem to be part and parcel of meaningful negotiations, for a lasting peace, and an end to Israeli occupation. Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv, is therefore a highly controversial, uncritical endorsement of Israeli sovereignty over the city, from a so-called impartial mediator.
both Palestinian and Israeli administrations claim Jerusalem to be their respective capital.
The UN partition plan of 1947 outlined 60% of Palestine to become ‘the Jewish State’, with the remaining 40% allocated for an ‘Arab state’. Jerusalem was to be ruled by an international governing body. This was quickly rejected by both sides. Following the 1948 war, within nine months, the Israeli’s had clearly outflanked the Arab forces, taking approximately 50% of the land allotted to the ‘Arab state’ (as well as keeping its own allocation). In the process, around 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes, into refugee camps, beyond the borders of the newly established Israeli state; what the Palestinians refer to as Al-Nakba (the catastrophe).
In the climate of resounding Israeli victory and mass Palestinian displacement, Jerusalem became a strategic priority for the state of Israel.
After the 1948 war, the Western powers oversaw Jordan’s annexation of east Jerusalem and the West Bank, at great Palestinian expense. The forging of an Arab ‘Jordanian identity’ was encouraged by King Abdullah I; Palestinian national consciousness and cultural expression were suppressed; and as the eastern side of the city fell into decay, its Palestinian residents became increasingly impoverished.
On the other side of Jerusalem, the aim of the Israeli forces was to establish ‘facts on the ground’. This was achieved through the annexation of Palestinian land and villages into a territorial bloc with the Jewish neighbourhoods, creating a territorially viable and defendable capital city.
The policy of creating social, economic and political facts on the ground, through the expansion of settlements and the dispossession of Palestinians, is at the core of the Israeli strategy to accumulate more land for the ‘Jewish state’.
Early Zionist (Israeli nationalist) settlers sought to gain ownership by exchanging money for tracts of land. But with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and the acquisition of a powerful military, the conquest of Palestinian land replaced its purchase.
Military expansionism has played a key role in the reshaping of Jerusalem under Israeli control. Following Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, Jordanian influence was eliminated and the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights all came under Israeli control. With these occupations came a construction boom of fortifications and settlements.
The full conquest of Jerusalem, following the victory of the 1967 war, as Yonatan Mendel has explained, brought a “euphoric sense of power” that combined with “messianic sentiments” about the “strength” and “might” of Israel.
This quickly translated into the long held plan for a ‘unified Jerusalem’. However, as Mendel continues:
‘this was a new kind of Jerusalem, not only in terms of its borders, but also for its residents. Twenty-eight Palestinian villages which had never been part of any Jerusalem now found themselves under the jurisdiction of ‘the united capital of the Jewish people’.
The plan for Jerusalem post-1967 has been for it to expand under strict Israeli control. Israel’s invasion and the creation of the “Occupied Territories” was not an event. But rather, it is an evolving structure of domination. Increasingly, the logic is based on the seizure of Palestinian land, minus the Palestinians.
violence is intensified in Palestinian space as a consequence of the attempt to create peace (or at least an absence of violence) in Israel
Despite the signing of the Oslo Accords (1993-1995), land grabs and settlement expansion continued, paired with an intensified restriction of Palestinian movement, micro-management of the population and a ‘complex permit system’ of military and “floating” checkpoints.
Perhaps the most disturbing effect of the Israeli policy of segregation, is that effectively, violence is intensified in Palestinian space as a consequence of the attempt to create peace (or at least an absence of violence) in Israel.
The idea that the United States has been an impartial adjudicator in the peace-process is frankly unsustainable. Quite the contrary. The US has legitimised, sustained, and ultimately funded the Israeli occupation through military aid, political support and joint operations with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
Trump card aside, Netanyahu’s kleptocracy may well soon be over. Regardless, the sober reader will see Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as a clear expression of extreme pro-Israel bias from a supposedly honest broker. It endorses Israeli sovereignty over the city, at least half of which (east Jerusalem and the Old City) is illegally occupied Palestinian land. The idea of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is one more ‘fact on the ground’ for the Palestinian cause to deal with.
Happy New Year.
Featured image pixababy / CC0 Creative Commons
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