by Abdellatif El-Menawy
What made US President Donald Trump decide to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at this specific time? Can the reaction of Arabs and Muslims change this decision? Many questions are being raised without clear answers.
This decision was made by the US Congress in 1995 and has been on the agenda since Ronald Reagan’s days, but no US president was able to act on it until the Palestinian situation and the fragmentation of the Arab world allowed it to be implemented by Trump.
The surprise that overwhelmed Arabs was shocking. Trump was open about his intentions even before he took office — he announced it outright during his presidential campaign, but received calls from Arab leaders as soon as he took office convincing him to postpone it.
He seems to have listened to Arab advice at the time, as well as the projections of several of his assistants and some of the people involved in US decision-making, but this did not mean implementation was suspended indefinitely.
Therefore, the Jerusalem decision is no surprise. Despite all the early warning signs, Arabs did not know how to avoid the announcement or continue to postpone it.
There have been disputes over how to move the peace process forward, and Arabs have different, intersecting visions. The result was that the Arab Peace Initiative, the minimum that Arabs agree upon, has disappeared and been replaced by ambiguous speech about a deal (or several) that seems vague even when described as “the deal of the century” — and it is crystal clear that it will be at the expense of Arabs.
“Jerusalem won’t be lost as long as Palestinians renounce division. Without Palestinian unity, the world cannot support them to keep Jerusalem.”
This coincided with a change in threat priorities in the region. The question here is: Do Palestinians have no hand in what has happened and what will happen next?
The various parties of the Palestinian leadership have reached a new stage of incompetence, and people have been anticipating the birth of a new leadership that is aware of the country’s real situation.
We can rest assured that what happened to Jerusalem is a result of Palestine’s division and and fragmentation, in addition to failed reconciliation, despite all the great opportunities.
Despite what Palestine has been undergoing, diminished and potentially wiped out, Hamas and Fatah continue to hinder any reconciliation deal. Egypt has played a major role in achieving reconciliation in Palestine, but the Palestinian leaders, whether participants or mediators, are, alas, no longer capable of making decisions.
The US president and his administration realized how weak and limited the Arab stance is, and US decision-makers predicted how limited Arab reaction would be to the Jerusalem decision. All of this contributed to making it easy for the US to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Can Arabs and Muslims do anything to alter US decision? Nothing is impossible. It is probably too late, but action must be taken nevertheless.
We have heard, and are still hearing, several proposed actions, but they remain of no value until they are turned into a comprehensive pattern of action in a logical and practical context. It is very important for public reaction to continue and develop at the Palestinian, Arab and international levels, provided they are employed as part of a more controlled and realistic project with defined goals. I can imagine finding a way to gather scattered ideas, identify good ones, and advance them in a collective and truly aware context.
The people of Palestine have expressed their anger and received the support of the UN and the people of the world. We must push this expression to its highest levels and make use of this situation. A practical and logical approach is best. This is not the time to blame any of the many parties; we must focus on taking action, but action cannot be effective unless the Palestinians are united. This is our first mission.
Jerusalem won’t be lost as long as Palestinians renounce division. Without Palestinian unity, the world cannot support us to keep Jerusalem. The people of Palestine are seeking a new concept for the next phase’s leadership, and this matter should be one of that phase’s priorities.