Two days ago, on December 6th, 2017 the world was faced with one of the most breaking news since months, regarding the future of international peace.
On Wednesday’s Cabinet Meeting in Washingtion D.C, President of the United States – Donald Trump, has officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, while announcing moving of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver”, he said. “Today, I am delivering. I am determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.”
This claim came down as an avalanche of repercussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, now lasting for over five decades in the Middle East.
— My travel to Jerusalem in 2012 – a view on the historical walls of the Old City —
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on other nations to follow Trump’s lead which he referred to as “important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”
Within minutes following Trump’s announcement, a wave of rebellion, devastation, and riots on streets of Palestine, clashing with celebration and festivities in the Israeli cities, swiped off a hope for the peaceful opening of the up-coming 2018 year for the entire Arab World.
“I never believed this nightmare was possible,” a student at the University of Palestine wrote on his Facebook page, “but when I turned on the news today my faint hope for our future was suddenly all gone.”
Alarming oubursts of violence in public places, burining of the American flags on the streets, and sounds of a riffle were being reported by the locals in five Arab coutries in the Gulf area, as well as by the international media.
—A wall at Palestinian side is planned for a total length of 708 kilometres (440 mi) upon completion —
Yesterday, the protests have made their way to Jordanian capital city of Amman, inhabited by Palestinian refugees.
Youths chanted anti-American slogans, hundreds roamed the streets denouncing Trump and calling on Jordan’s government to scrap its 1994 peace treaty with Israel. Few kilometers further – in my high school – where a large number of the student body, as well as teachers and staff is of Palestinian descent, this day came as “one of the worst in [their lives]”, as said Anais Amer ’18, American citizen whose family lives in New Jersey, at the same time cherishing Palestinian roots and traditions.
Were these violent actions included in what Presindet Trump has put forward, while announcing “a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians”?
The armed conflict in all parts of Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip, coasts of the Dead Sea, and border with Lebanon, can be dated back to Jewish immigration in mid 20th century, and sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Arabs.
– The Western Wall – a Holly Place of prayer at an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem –
Over the years, despite a long-term peace process, including the involvement of external actors such as the European Union and NATO, and despite the general reconciliation of Israel with Egypt and Jordan, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement. The more international interest was enforced in the West Bank, the more tight and divided the peace-discussions were becoming. The latest round of peace negotiations began in July 2013 and was suspended in 2014.
The extremely well-secured border reduces freedom, though the number of Israel Defense Forces checkpoints and road closures, loss of land, increased difficulty in accessing medical and educational services in Israel.
Now, after the bold move from the American side, in the eyes of many Israel and Palestine are to become even more divided and the already dim hope for peace may turn any advocacy into a way of no solution. Empowered by the United States Israel, can now not only enjoy more freedom in keeping its brutal surpression over the Palestinian land, but also remain with a constant diplomatic and financial support from the West, on the expense of millions of Palestinians, who have been forced to leave their homes.
More instability in the Middle East also lays forward a stable ground for the sourrounding activity of the terrorist organizations and political military groups: fused Hezbollah in Lebanon, Palestinian fundamentalists of Hamas, or the neighbouring Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“Not only [Trump’s decision] jeopardizes the progression of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but plays into the hands of terrorists who seek excuses to wage religious wars”, wrote one of the King’s Academy seniors
The saying that “when the USA sneezes, the entire world gets a cold”, seems to be greatly reflected by this example. Although the US President’s decision has a direct effect on both sides of the conflict, it is not to be questioned that its repercussions will extend far beyond the boudaries of the Middle East, and pose even more concerns to the international diplomacy.
— Streets of Betlehem, Palestine —
As much as the interest of Europe and European Union in the situation in Gaza for the past decades has been of a collective character and may have to some extend been building on a suspense of the failed actions of the United Nations, as well as the legacy of the British Emipre (if such can be an excuse to run away from responsibility through Brexit, remains a valid point of the international debate), the closening of the ties between the personal interests of the Unites States and Israel over the past two years, cannot not go unnoticed.
Crossing the border from Palestine to Israel had been one of the most frightening experiences of my life, featuring an excort under rifles of Israeli soldiers, close personal check, and debate over authenticy of both passport and purpose of my visit.
In 2016, the two countries signed a new 10-year military-assistance deal, representing the single largest pledge of its kind in American history. USA conveyed $38 billion dollars to Israel, with a potential of spending to strengten the armour and build troops possibly against the Palestinians.
Aid to Israel was among the only static issues of the past U.S. election season. Further, before taking office in January 2017, president-elect Donald Trump made a strongly worded promises to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel.
The effect of those promises came sound on Wednesday.
“All challenges of the past demand new approaches”, said Trump while discrediting validaty in action of his precursors in this matter.
— Trouble-making Palestinian stamp in my old passport —
Although the approach of the previous cabinets has been more diplomatic than radical and law waiver over the claim of the Israeli capital city was held continuously for 20 years until now – there are some direct explanations for why keeping a tight relationship with Israel is particularly important for the United States.
Politically, the previously mentioned financial spending is to a large extend a response to the nuclear deal that the US and other world powers finalized with Iran in July two years ago.
— Ortodox Jew walking across the streets of Jerusalem —
But the deal also directs more money back toward the United States.
It eliminates a provision in the previous aid agreement that allowed Israel to spend 26 percent of its Foreign Military Financing on weaponry and other resources produced within Israel, rather than in the United States”, wrote Emma Green for ‘The Atlantic’.
A provision is intended to help Israel build its own defense industry as it remains US closest and fundamental for future actiona ally in the Middle-Eastern region.
Political aspects are just few besides the broad economical and military reasons for why the United States clearly keep much interest in holding these relationships with Israel strong, while at the same time striving to gain control over the peace-discussions with Palestine.
— Prayers and confessions left for God in between the stones of the Western Wall —
While discussing such complexed topic as this one, a similar approach to it is required. Only through a view of a “larger picture”, thus also by acknowledging a perspective of all the sides, can we effectively evaluate the facts we are faced with. Although as a jounalist I do believe in and claim a complete objectivity in news reporting, I also happen to be a part of community that is being directly affected by the issues I write about.
Palestinians, Israeli, and Americans to whom I refer are my friends and teachers, as well as their families. While discovering the stories of the world’s people, few years ago I have too visited both Israel and Palestine.
Within few days, I have crossed the wall on the border from one side to another three times, spoken to Palestinian, Israeli, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Kids, men, and women. Stood under the Western Wall.
One morning, I passed the “Welcome to Israel” sign. The next day, I heard a knock of Palestinian stamp being put in my passport, while a soldier was escorting me through the gate.
Throughout the entire last year, during pep rallies in Pennsylvania – I have been watching and reporting on Donald Trump become elected a President of the United States while I was also going to school his sons graduated from.
–Reporting in the Big City during the presidential election; Road Island Rail Road joining Long Island and New York’s Manhattan —
Finally today, I listen to my friends from Palestine, Israel, and the United States – all equally concerned about their own future, future of their families, and our future. I remember very well this Jerusalem that they all talk of. It was and it is a sacred place of peace and home to millions.
“I feel helpless,” said Amer ’18. Her grandfather was displaced from Jerusalem in 1967 and since then he hasn’t been able to return. “I feel guilty of having a privlidge that I do of living the life that I’ve lived apart from Palestine and I wished that I’ve had experienced Palestine so that I could feel the actual pain and suffering of the nation,” she said.
— Catholic Church at a hearth of Betlehem, Palestine —
—A view from Olive Hills of Jerusalem—
Members of the Students for Justice in Palestine club at King’s Academy, in solidary with Palestinians came to classes wearing keffiyeh. The scarf flipped to the other side was a sign of grief and mourning. The problem was introduced during an all-school meeting, followed by an official email from the Administration.
“What we can do, is show that we stay united with Palestine everyday and especially today”, said a high school teacher.
Dozens of students were purchasing keffiyehs and the official photograph of all the students and faculty wearing scarfs was taken in front of the shool’s Academinc Building. Money donated throughout the day will be sent over to Jerusalem along with prayers and calls for peace and strenght.
Children play in front of an orphanage school in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem.International responses on both the riots in Jerusalem, as well as protests in Jordan, came in th hours following the announcement.
International reaction to US Presiden’t annoncement didn’t leave a doubt about major concerns regarding the future of the conflict.
“Trump’s move means the US can no longer play a role in the peace process”, said Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat in a statement. “President Trump just destroyed any possibility ofa two-state (solution),”
Canada (US closest ally) and Mexico – which together constitute NAFTA, currently the most powerful trading block in the world have taken a stand that was further supported by Russia, which officials declared a “serious concern for possible deterioration of the situation.”
— The Dome of the Rock – Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem —
Stands were also taken by the European Union – greatly involved in the peaceful mediations at West Bank, as well as by govenments of the Gulf Cuntries.
“Saudi Arabia had previously warned of the serious consequences of such an irresponsible and unwarranted step,” said a statement issued by the Saudi Royal Court. Hamas, France and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, have joined the chorus of criticism targeting Trump, however the voice noe echoing in all parts of the world is that of Pope Francise, who called for wisdom prevail with regards to Jerusalem, to prevent further tensions in a world of deep conflict.
“Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the holy places for the respective religions are venerated and it has a special vocation to peace,” he said.
As previous months were for many to decide if Donald Trump will become one powerful President of the United States, following months are to determine how one decision of powerful individual will impact millions in the Middle East and beyond its frames.