In the Arab and Muslim world, the sun rising in the morning is enough to fuel tension leading to continuous killing among Muslims themselves. Therefore, it’s laughable when Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, warned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that a decision to recognise Jerusalem could “trigger anger across the Arab and Muslim world, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts.”
Similarly, other Arab nations and Palestinian officials have warned of dire consequences if the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including potential unrest and an end to the peace process. Saudi Arabia also disagreed – “Any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region.”
But that’s precisely the problem – they have been talking for ages without any concrete settlement, and there won’t be one even after the human race successfully colonized planet Mars. For more than 20 years, successive U.S. presidents have signed a waiver every 6 months that allows them to delay a move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on national security grounds.
Enter Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman whose anti-Muslim prejudice is legendary, even before he wins the presidency in 2016. During his campaign, Trump vowed to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move considered an official recognition of the city as the capital of Israel. He reluctantly signed a waiver on June 1 this year.
President Trump was supposed to sign his second waiver, just like his predecessors and the one he did 6 months ago. But the Mondays’s deadlinepassed without any action from the White House, suggesting that Trump’s scheduled announcement 2 days later on Wednesday is about declaring Jerusalem the Israel’s capital.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, is personally leading Trump’s efforts to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, efforts that so far have shown little progress. Even if Trump eventually forced to sign the waiver, he could make an announcement that this will be his last waiver and that the U.S. will move its embassy to Jerusalem in another 6 months – whether the Arabs like it or not.
Jerusalem is a sensitive site to both Jews and Muslims. It’s the site of Jews’ Temple Mount as well as Muslims’ Haram al-Sharif. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. It’s also the site of al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam and the golden shrine Dome of the Rock.
Israel claims Jerusalem in its entirety as its eternal and undivided capital, but Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Of course, the East Jerusalem was seized by Israel as a result of Six-Day War in June 1967. Since then, some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam came under Israeli rule.
Even after losing the Six-Day War, also known as the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, a war fought between Israel and the alliance of Egypt-Jordan-Syria, the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and the Palestinian Authority passed a law self-proclaiming Jerusalem to be the capital of the State of Palestine. But Israel also used its own law to integrate East Jerusalem into its rule.
Trump may be anti-Muslim and pro-Jews, but it’s not his fault for taking advantage of the present situation to recognize Jerusalem – once and for all. In spite of his anti-Muslim rhetoric, the Arab world continues sucking up to the U.S. president. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was among the first world leaders to congratulate Trump on his stunning presidential victory.
The same Trump was generously gifted with a military sales deal of about US$110 billion – effective immediately – plus another US$350 billion over the next 10 years when he visited Saudi Arabia. The U.S. president’s visit to the Middle East in May was celebrated by the Arab world with such a prestige that pro-Muslim Barack Hussein Obama could only watch with envy.
Even the ailing King Salman, armed with his walking stick, was made to wait at the airport tarmac to receive President Trump. Like a Christmas tree, the king insisted the U.S. president must be decorated with the gold King Abdulaziz medal, claiming that the 4-month old Trump administration be honoured for “his quest to enhance security and stability in the region and around the world.”
Qatar, despite being accused by Saudi and later mocked by Trump for sponsoring terrorism at the highest levels, happily authorized the country to purchase over US$21 billion of U.S. weapons. A deal – US$12 billion for 36 F-15QA fighter jets – was fast-forwarded and signed when Qatar’s Defence Minister met with U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old son of King Salman named as the successor to the throne of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, had flown numerous times to Washington to rub shoulders with Donald Trump. Heck, the Saudi prince had even secretly paid a visit to Israel, the clearest sign that Saudi-led Arab world has all bark and no bite in the issue of Palestine.
As it is, Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman desperately needs to befriend Israel in order to fight Shia-Muslim Iran, a bigger enemy than Jews Israel. Between Iran and Israel, the choice isn’t difficult. Palestinians may find it hard to sell their sobbing stories when Arab states increasingly see their security interests aligned with Israel’s against their shared enemy, Iran.
Unlike the weak and pro-Muslim Barack Obama, President Donald Trump is a different animal. Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was surprised and flabbergasted last month after Trump administration threatened to close downthe Palestine Liberation Organization’s Washington office unless the Palestinians engaged in meaningful peace talks.
And unlike North Korea, it seems the Arab and Muslim world has revealed its weakness. They’re not as tough as they wanted the world to know. Against a tough Donald Trump, they knew the U.S. president would gladly welcome any threat of radical Islamic terrorism as a result of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Trump will then have legitimate excuse to roll out more anti-Muslim policies.
After winning his tax reform, Trump appears on his way to another huge victory – moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If he succeeds, it will be a major achievement, something which the past presidents in more than 20 years – from Truman to Obama – couldn’t achieve, or too weak to deliver. The stars are aligned and Trump is granted the best chance to fix this stubborn issue.