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Bahbah: The US Embassy in Jerusalem--The Newest Israeli Settlement

posted on: May 16, 2018

By: Bishara Bahbah/Arab America Featured Columnist

May 14, 2018, will go down in history as an infamous day that witnessed the United States opening of its embassy in Jerusalem thus recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the city.  The move represents the US flaunting of international law, multiple UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that the US itself helped draft and willingly voted for, to fulfill a “campaign promise” by its president, Donald Trump.

Some might view the move of the US embassy as a symbolic move because in reality, the United States has done more egregious acts that harmed the Palestinians who also claim East Jerusalem as their capital.  The fact is that without the United States’ unconditional support, Israel would have never been able to hold on to and settle in the Palestinian territories (the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem) which it occupied in 1967.  Where would Israel be without the US’ unwavering political/diplomatic, military, and financial support over the past 70 years?

Hence, what is the significance of the US embassy move to Jerusalem and what might be its consequences?

1. The US embassy move could be the nail in the coffin of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

No political entity in Palestine, whether Fatah or Hamas, could survive the ire of the Palestinian people should any Palestinian party resume the peace negotiations with Israel under any US auspices.  Unfortunately, we are all aware that no negotiations could lead anywhere without the necessary US pressure that only the US could exert on Israel.  The Europeans are sympathetic to Palestinian demands for a state of their own but anyone would be delusional to think that Israel cares about what the Europeans think or want.  Thus, for now, and for the foreseeable future, the peace process is dead.

2. The US move is a testament to Trump’s utter disregard for US national interests.

Trump’s disregard for U.S. national interests in favor of the interests of Israel and the group of American Jews and Christian Zionists (primarily Evangelists) that funded his campaign and voted him into office. Since when does Trump really care about fulfilling his promises?  He picks and chooses what promises he wants to keep depending on what serves his personal, not US national interests.  What about his campaign promise to shepherd the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.  It seems that by honoring his campaign promise to move the US embassy, he foreclosed on his campaign promise to be a steward of the “ultimate deal.”  It is like being penny wise and dollar foolish.

3. The US action represents a total disregard to historical facts.

Except for the interval of the Crusades (1099-1187), Jerusalem was under Islamic rule continuously from the year 637 AD until December 9, 1918, when the British occupied the city and the rest of Palestine as part of their conspiracy with the French, better known as the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, to divide up the Arab world among them as their spoils following the conclusion of World War I.  The Palestinians have been in Palestine for centuries.  Doesn’t that constitute a Palestinian legal, historical and moral right?  Trump clearly feels that what was done to the Native American Indians can also be done to the Palestinians. Might, and not justice, makes right when it comes to Trump and Israel.

4. The credibility of the current administration as a potential broker is lost and irreparable.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of J Street, a Jewish US group that supports a two-state solution recently stated that “the credibility of this administration as a potential broker is lost and irreparable.” With no credibility, how can Trump assume that the proposed deal that he would like to strike with N. Korea to denuclearize the Korean peninsula be taken seriously by the N. Koreans, their Chinese or Russian allies? How about Trump’s recent decision to withdraw from the multi-party Iran nuclear deal?  What kind of credibility does this administration think it has with some of its closest European allies? The absence of a country’s credibility, especially a superpower like the United States, reduces that country’s influence worldwide.  Are these actions in US national interests?

5. When Trump declared that the United States will recognize “Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital, he did not specify “West Jerusalem.”

His comment was understood to mean both parts of Jerusalem including East Jerusalem which was occupied by Israel in 1967 and which it shortly thereafter illegally annexed.  That, of course, contravenes binding UN Security Resolutions and international consensus over the final status of the city which is to be negotiated as part of a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

6. If the US embassy move assumes that the Palestinians will do nothing, then Trump is mistaken.

All the Palestinians, or more precisely the Palestinian Authority, has to do is end its security cooperation with Israel.  Israel could then relive the days when Palestinian suicide bombers were blowing up themselves in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  What will happen in Gaza could by far be more deadly and unpredictable. As we have seen from the unfolding events following the embassy move – tens of Gazans were murdered by Israeli soldiers along the border and thousands were wounded, many by live fire.

7. The Palestinians could opt to take the United States to the International Court of Justice for violating international laws. represented by UN Security Council resolutions.

UN Security Council resolutions are legally binding on all nations–regarding the status of Jerusalem especially East Jerusalem.  What an irony and humiliation would that be for the United States, the presumed bearer of the plight of freedom and democracy throughout the world!

8. It would not be surprising that the US embassy move could embolden some countries from moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

Guatemala and Paraguay are expected to move their embassies possibly this week to Jerusalem.  These are banana republics that will do Israel’s bidding because they rely on Israeli arms and military advisors to control their populations.  Except for a handful of countries, the US embassy move is not expected to lead to a mass migration to Jerusalem of the 86 foreign missions currently based in Tel Aviv.

9. Don’t expect a major Arab or Islamic outcry over the US embassy move. 

Sadly, I do not expect a major Arab or Islamic outcry over the US embassy move. Given their tepid response to Trump’s announcement in December of his decision to move the embassy, it would not be surprising that Trump was encouraged by this cowardly and shameful Arab and Muslim reaction and decided, as a result, to move up the schedule of the embassy relocation from 2019 to this much earlier date, May 14. The Palestinians have to understand that from now on, they are on their own.  Arabs will pay lip service to the Palestine struggle, and throw their way a few dollars to shut them up.

10. The US move and Arab silence will strengthen Iran’s grand scheme to destabilize the Arab world and take it over piece by piece.

And, what about Iran which is on a crusade to recreate the Persian Empire in many parts of the Arab world – Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, Bahrain and Gaza. Iran wants to discredit the Arabs, especially, Saudi Arabia, the seat of Islam’s two holiest sanctuaries – Mecca and Medina.  The US move and Arab silence will strengthen Iran’s grand scheme to destabilize the Arab world and take it over piece by piece. Iran’s anticipated rage over the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem will be intended to show the Muslim and Arab worlds that Iran alone is the one that is fighting to preserve Al-Quds and Haram Al-Sharif, Islam’s third holiest site.

The timing of the US embassy move to Jerusalem is most unfortunate and rewards Israel’s for its intransigence, its unwillingness to relinquish any of the occupied Palestinian territories, its contempt to the idea of creating a mini Palestinian state alongside Israel, and its undeterred determination to enslave the 5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and to prolong the Palestinian refugee crisis for decades to come. Trump’s actions have managed to unravel any prospect, as remote as it might be, for peace between Israel and Palestine.


Professor Bahbah was born and raised in the Old City of Jerusalem with a confirmed lineage that goes back hundreds of years to the city.  Bahbah’s residency in Jerusalem was revoked in 2009 by Israel, along with tens of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalem residents, part of Israel’s scheme to empty the city from its Palestinian residents.

Prof. Bishara Bahbah was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Peace Talks on Arms Control and Regional Security.  He taught at Harvard and was the associate director of its Kennedy School’s Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America.