Analysis

With Jerusalem Recognition, Trump Proves U.S. Was Never an Honest Broker

World leaders did little to advance peace, so why whine now?

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip burning posters depicting U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, December 6, 2017.
Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will not change the day-to-day reality of Palestinians living in Jerusalem or across the West Bank, in Gaza or in refugee camps. They all woke up to the same feeling that has accompanied them every day since 1967: life under occupation. The Israeli residents of West Jerusalem will not experience any difference either.

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The ones who will feel a change, though, are the leaders in the Arab world and Europe who have been parroting the words “peace process” and “two-state solution” for the past three decades.

These are the same leaders who have witnessed successive Israeli governments creating facts on the ground and altering the geographical and demographic nature of Jerusalem, yet making do with either mild condemnations that had no impact on Israeli decision-makers or spouting empty slogans about the status and importance of Jerusalem to the Arab and Islamic world.

In his declaration, Trump consolidated the existing state of affairs in Jerusalem. His message to European leaders, the United Nations and leaders of the Arab and Muslim world was clear: If you haven’t done anything to preserve and protect the two-state solution, why are you whining now? If neither side has lifted a finger for decades, why expect me to bring the desired change?

This is also the message the United States is broadcasting to its allies around the world. Just as the Iraqis and the Syrian opposition had to learn the consequences of an alliance with the Americans, it is now the turn of the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinians and many of their supporters in the Arab and Islamic world should actually be thanking Trump. He’s finally put an end to the charade and made it clear to the world that the United States was never an honest broker mediating between Israel and the Palestinians. It will never advance international resolutions that run counter to Israel’s interests, and will never strive to end the occupation and grant Palestinians the right to self-determination, other than in accordance with Israeli demands. That’s the reality. That’s the truth.

Anyone who really wanted to protect Jerusalem could have done so a long time ago. Those who truly aspired for a two-state solution could have helped implement it years ago. And anyone who truly wished to advance a solution could have recognized a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and passed the appropriate resolution at the UN Security Council.

All of these decisions could have been implemented long before Trump reached the Oval Office. But world leaders elected to wait and keep talking about the diplomatic process and negotiations, while Israel was establishing facts on the ground – both in Jerusalem and across the West Bank, always with U.S. backing.

Abbas feels betrayed, and rightly so. The man who has gone the furthest in his approach to the United States, talking about Trump as a partner, as someone who would spearhead “the deal of the century,” now finds himself facing a bleak reality in which the U.S. president is taking the Israeli side on one of the most sensitive issues in the Palestinian national and religious narrative.

In September, Abbas put the one-state solution on the table in his UN General Assembly address, warning of the collapse of the two-state solution. He has seen another nail being driven into that particular coffin and now will have to seek an alternative to present to his people.

The international community, if it still wishes to find a solution and save Abbas, will need to take practical steps – such as the majority of European countries recognizing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

If none of this happens, Abbas and the PA leadership will have to admit failure, hand over the keys and leave the Palestinian political arena.