Opinion |

Palestine's Vatican Envoy: President Trump, You Poisoned the Peace Process - and Our Christmas

The U.S. president's Jerusalem decision is a black hole that will swallow every achievement of the Mideast peace process and dealt a harsh blow to moderates. But as a nation, we Palestinians will be resurrected again

Issa Kassissieh
Issa Kassissieh
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An image painted by British street artist Banksy on the separation wall in Bethlehem, West Bank.
An image painted by British street artist Banksy on the separation wall in Bethlehem, West Bank.Credit: REUTERS
Issa Kassissieh
Issa Kassissieh

As Bethlehem and other cities in the Holy Land lit the Christmas tree ahead of the Christmas season, President Donald Trump decided to break the traditional position of the previous American administrations.

In defiance of the international community, he unilaterally declared Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. This resulted in a global wave of shock: In Palestine the leadership received the decision as an "ultimate slap" to all the genuine efforts for a durable and comprehensive peace based on International Law and international resolutions at top of which are Resolutions 242, 338 and 2334.

President Trump's decision on Jerusalem, on the eve of the Christmas season, was carried out as if it was deliberately aiming at extinguishing Bethlehem's Christmas lights, and to ensure that the children of Palestine wouldn't enjoy the Christmas spirit.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands by as U.S. President Donald Trump signs a proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during an address from the White House in Washington on DeceCredit: Kevin Lamarque

Mr. Trump, as a father and grandfather, you should have thought for a moment about the dramatic consequences of such a move. You spoiled the joy of Christmas in the Holy Land when you portrayed the Holy City of Jerusalem with only one color. Where the three monotheistic religions could live in mutual respect and peace, you adopted exclusivity instead of inclusivity.

Mr. President, with this decision, you are destroying the mosaic of this city’s beauty, removing its indigenous Christian stones, stones that have stood there to protect the holy shrines since the early days of Christianity.

The coming days and years will stand witness to your decision, but clearly, rather than making Jerusalem the warm sun of the Middle East, you opted to recognize it - through your ill-advised decision - as the capital of Israel, a black hole that will swallow the achievements of the Middle East peace process.

When you were elected, some of us hoped that this year would be a different one. Alas, the prevailing winds from the White House have swept the process in an opposite direction, poisoning the joy of Christmas.

Pope Francis touches the wall dividing Israel from the West Bank, on his way to celebrate a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. May 25, 2014Credit: REUTERS

Mr. President, the children of Palestine deserve to celebrate Christmas and enjoy the spirit of the message of our Lord, and seek freedom and dignity. The "ultimate deal" was supposed to end the Israeli occupation in the occupied territory of Palestine, restore freedom and dignity to the Palestinian people and spare Israel from its evil military occupation and the subjugation of others. We believed a two-state solution on the 1967 borders was the ultimate goal of your mediation.

The other day, I took my children to see their grandfather’s home in Qattamon, a Jerusalem neighborhood. My then eight-year-old father, along with his parents, were obliged to leave their home and run for their lives during the 1948 war. The Qattamon area was inhabited mainly by Palestinian Christians, and now it is considered part of West Jerusalem. I made the point to my children that the Qattamon area remains part of our Palestinian roots and identity, yet we have to look into the future, and make East Jerusalem as the place for our future capital, as Jerusalem should be open and shared by all three monotheistic religions.

A protester carrying a Palestinian flag runs for cover during clashes with Israeli troops following protests against Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Bethlehem, Dec. 10, 2017.Credit: AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

Mr. President, your declaration on Jerusalem distances us from peace. It is a hard blow to the moderate voices in the region. It also fueled bitter feelings amongst our young people on the eve of the Christmas season. Bethlehem, the birth place of our Lord Jesus, rightly expected a message of peace and tranquility from you. Rather, you opted to side with the oppressor, and sabotaged this year’s Christmas.

The Holy Land and its living stones deserve better treatment from you, an approach based on justice, freedom and dignity. By celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, we keep joy and hope in the hearts and minds of our children. We are adamant that the power of logic will defeat the logic of power, and as a nation we will be resurrected again in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. God bless us all.

Issa Kassissieh is the Ambassador of Palestine to the Holy See

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