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December 12, 2017

Where the onus lies


December 12, 2017

President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week evoked extreme reactions. Pakistan, rightly, did not lag behind in expressing its rejection of the American president’s move by deciding to launch a diplomatic initiative to pressure Washington. Unsurprisingly, there have been a number of protests in all major cities as well.

The Palestine cause has always been dear to our nation and the sense of solidarity we share with Palestinians is also akin to our feelings about Kashmir.

Though it is heartening to see the worldwide opposition to Trump’s latest act of ‘idiocy’ – as some have termed it – the implications of it, especially when it is enacted by the most powerful president in the world, are especially disturbing. Presumably, previous US presidents had signed waivers to not move their embassy to Jerusalem because of the impetus it would give Israel. It is ironic that while there was reticence in moving the American diplomatic headquarters to Jerusalem, Israel was being aided fully on every other front.

The weary reprimands for the parasitic Israeli settlements, the exhaustive shuttle diplomacy that Secretary Kerry and his predecessors engaged in and the futile Middle East Quartet talks seem to have been all for naught. Why? Because Israel, whether it was under Netanyahu’s Zionist leadership or otherwise, would not be bothered to go the extra mile as it has always been the recipient of US largesse – especially military aid – and the assurances of full US support in all international forums when faced with any challenges.

The card played in the past by Israel to show the world that it was caught between hostile Arab nations, is pathetic to say the least. Not only is Israel way ahead of other neighbouring countries in terms of its conventional defence capability, it is a militarised nuclear state – a glaring in-the-face reminder of the double standards over Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Jerusalem’s disputed status was deemed integral for the two-state solution and the Palestinian cause has been doubly upsetting. By assigning it the status of Israel’s capital, Trump has, with one swoop, felled the hopes for a future Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

For the outraged Muslim nations, the relegation of such a travesty is a blow not so much to the peace process, which has been reduced to a mere parody, but to the illusory façade they sought comfort in. The pretense they indulged in, knowing full well the intricacies of the US-Israel relations and their own capability of exercising diplomatic and economic pressure in the heyday of the fossil fuel global demand.

Even with the edge being lost to shale at present, the Gulf and the Middle East have enough clout to pressure Washington to amend some aspects of its blinkered support to Israel. While the Trump administration’s myopic vision has reduced the chance for any rational peace solution – especially when entrusted to Trump’s son-in-law and Zionist adviser Jared Kushner – the president understands the dynamics of business better than anyone else. Relations between Washington and Riyadh have seen an upsurge as Trump chose to fix the crosshairs on Tehran and the ammo-dollars pouring in as a result of the multi-billion dollar defence deals that have greatly helped the US economy.

While Saudi Arabia is, at present, implementing groundbreaking political and social policy changes at home and flexing its muscles regionally, it could use the same assertive zeal to move the Palestine issue to the centre-stage. Equally important is the need to get the Palestinian factions, both Fatah and Hamas, to work together in the wake of the recent developments. It is not going to be easy as peace is harder than war and the vested interests of the myriad parties are bound to affect the process. However, not doing anything beyond issuing diplomatic rejoinders is much more damaging.

Saudi Arabia, being the seat of the Harmain Sharif, also bears greater responsibility than any other Muslim state to help the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the divisions between the Muslim states – sectarian or otherwise – have played into the hands of Israel. And unless the Muslim states adopt a unified policy and schedule a phased plan to push ahead a two-state solution, the issue will continue to fester. This will have a large impact on the security and stability of the Middle East as well as the US.

The writer was a former deputy opinion editor at Gulf News, Dubai.

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