By Rutvi Saxena
The United States has been outnumbered 14-1 in a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution seeking to withdraw Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Protests erupted following Trump’s announcement, leading to a resolution drafted by Egypt that stated it was “expressing deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem”, clearly aimed at the Trump administration. The unanimity of all UNSC members backing the measure, except for the United States (US), brought the worldwide condemnation to the foreground and forced the US to use its veto power. Most nations believe that Trump has upended peace negotiations through such a move, while the President himself is certain such a move was long overdue.
Jerusalem: The holy land
Jerusalem is considered a holy city to three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Temple Mount, a hill in the Old City of Jerusalem and known to Muslims as Haram esh-Sharif, is the holiest site for Jews and the place they turn to during prayer. Among Muslims too, especially Sunni Muslims, it is widely considered the third holiest place in Islam after Mecca and Medina and the place where Mohammed ascended to heaven. Jerusalem also houses the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and resurrected. Due to its religious sanctity, Jerusalem is one of the most contested regions of the world.
At present, both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem to be their capital. Israel annexed a large part of the territory during the 1987 Six-Day war and holds many of its government institutions there; it claims Jerusalem is it’s “eternal and undivided capital”. This annexation was condemned and deemed illegal worldwide, and all countries continue to have their embassies in Tel Aviv with consular access to Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Palestinians seeking to form an independent state consider East Jerusalem their capital and stand in firm opposition to any takeover by Israel.
Most countries do not recognize either claim and maintain that the final status of the city is pending future negotiation. At this juncture, Trump’s contentious statement was not well received by the international community, especially not the Palestinians. It is, perhaps, only the Israelis who are overjoyed at the US President’s boldness at recognising the holy land as their capital and preparing to move their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem- a move that previous American presidents have shied away from. This was reiterated in the measure read out in the Security Council, stressing that “Jerusalem is an issue to be resolved through negotiations” and affirming that “Any decision and actions which purport to have altered the character, status, or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.”
The nations react
The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was quick to fire back after the veto saying “The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy...The fact that this veto is being done in defence of American sovereignty and in defence of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us; it should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council.“ She said that the overwhelming opposition was an “insult” that “won’t be forgotten”.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials promised they will seek a resolution in the General Assembly (GA). President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas responded by saying the veto was “unacceptable and threatens the stability of the international community because it disrespects it”. Riyadh Mansour, Palestinian ambassador said he hopes for “overwhelming support” in the 193-member General Assembly. However, unlike resolutions of the UNSC, the resolutions of the GA are not binding.
Israel, on the other hand, is all praises for Haley. In a recorded statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “On Hanukkah, you spoke like a Maccabi. You lit a candle of truth. You dispel the darkness. One defeated the many. Truth defeated lies. Thank you, President Trump. Thank you, Nikki Haley. Israel’s envoy, Danny Danon echoed the sentiment and applauded the “courageous stance” taken by President Trump. “They can vote on this issue again and again and again,” he told reporters of the Security Council. “Even a hundred more times; but it will never change the fact that Jerusalem is, has been, and always will be the eternal capital of Israel.”
However, not every nation has reacted so favourably; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an announced that Turkey intends to build an embassy in East Jerusalem. The statement comes days after the country lead a summit of Muslim leaders in a bid for the world to recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit was followed by a communique that saw Trump’s declaration as a sign that Washington was no longer a “sponsor of peace” in the Middle East.
Other G-5 countries like France and UK reiterated their stance against Trump’s contentious announcement. French Ambassador François Delattre told reporters. “Without an agreement on Jerusalem, there will be no peace accord. This is why an agreement on Jerusalem can only be decided by the parties themselves, with the support of the community of nations, and not by the unilateral decision of a third country that would bring us back one century ago.” British envoy Matthew Croft, however, maintained that the US continues to be an important peacemaker and called on Trump “to take that process forward.”
These developments are bound to escalate tensions in the already volatile region of Palestine. Until the political status of the de jure state is finalized, it’s people will live in a cloud of uncertainty and fear. Beyond recognizing to which region it belongs, Palestine needs the international community to make efforts to establish peace and stability.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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