On Jerusalem, 'Trump First', not US

Donald Trump put "Trump First" not "America First" on December 6 when he proclaimed US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, overturning 70 years of US policy. Washington had adhered to the UN partition resolution of November 1947, which divided Palestine into a Jewish State, a Palestinian state, and a UN-administered corpus separatum consisting of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Neither state was to make Jerusalem its capital. Israel violated this by conquering and declaring West Jerusalem its capital in 1948 and appropriated East Jerusalem after seizing that sector from Jordan in 1967.  

Trump's action on Jerusalem, holy to Christians and Muslims as well as Jews, finished off US pretentions to be a deal-maker and put the final nail in the coffin of the dead peace process designed to bring forth a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Although slain by Israel's refusal to negotiate seriously with the Palestinians and colonisation of Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, the "peace process" had provided a pretext to avoid confronting Israel for its expansionist policies. Now, the "peace process" is buried, the US can no longer play a role in defusing the conflict, Europe is unlikely to take action, and the international community is leaderless.

Trump's Jerusalem decision compounds damage he has done on the world scene by deciding to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement, the Iran nuclear accord, and multinational trade deals. US standing on the world stage has sunk to an all-time low. This is not in the US interest.

The majority of US citizens recognise this fact and 63% oppose Trump's shift on Jerusalem, revealing the majority does not believe he puts "America First." He all too obviously put "Trump First" when he said he had taken this decision to fulfil a campaign pledge. Puffed up like a pouter pigeon, Trump proclaimed he kept campaign pledges unlike predecessors who made similar promises and reneged on them.

On December 7, Trump received congratulations while hosting scores of pro-Israel Jewish figures attending a White House party celebrating the Jewish feast of Hanukka. As his guests gathered round, Trump stated, "Well, I know for a fact there are a lot of happy people in this room." He paused and said, "Jerusalem!"

Among those present were wealthy backers who contributed to his election campaign, notably Sheldon Adelson, casino billionaire, who donated $20 million as well as $1.5 million to fund the Republican party's national convention. Adelson, who had repeatedly urged Trump to shift US policy, has expressed satisfaction.

The Zionist Organisation of America called the move "historic and just." Trump also has the backing of Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, and US UN ambassador Nikki Haley, an opportunistic supporter of Israel.

Although warned by Arab, Muslim and European leaders of a potential violent backlash in West Asia and on the international scene, Trump went ahead, defying criticism and alienating long-standing European and West Asian allies. His action shows the US cannot be counted on to behave intelligently in a crisis. Instead, Trump has made US foreign policy erratic, unreasonable and dangerous.    

Palestinians reacted to his decision by boycotting Trump's administration. Arab foreign ministers meeting at Arab League headquarters in Cairo called for him to reverse his policy shift on Jerusalem. Arab rulers allied to the US - particularly Saudis, Jordanians, Emiratis, Lebanese, and Egyptians - are under pressure from subjects to not only condemn but also take action against the US.

Demonstrations and attacks can be expected in the occupied Palestinian territories. Palestinians are calling for a third intifada, or uprising, but Israel's omnipresent security forces and encirclement of West Bank cities and towns make a coordinated rising difficult. Instead, Palestinian youths will step up deadly "lone wolf" attacks on Israeli targets. On December 10, a young Palestinian stabbed and gravely wounded an Israeli guard at the bus station in Jerusalem. In the past two years, 50 Israelis and three foreign visitors were slain in individual stabbing, shooting and car ramming attacks and 260 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces.

Trump's action has already ignited protests in West Asia, France, Indonesia, and elsewhere and prompted angry young men to firebomb a Jewish synagogue in Sweden. Trump's proclamation on Jerusalem could revive Palestine as the central Arab cause after years of neglect due to Arab Spring unrest and wars in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Jerusalem provides a powerful recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and its many off-shoots.

Al-Qaeda's founder Osama bin Laden placed ending Israel's occupation of Palestine second on a list of tasks for his followers - after overthrowing the Saudi regime. Having been defeated in Syria and Iraq and driven from territory it held there, Islamic State could order its dispersed fighters to mount operations in their homelands or wherever they reside. Trump's proclamation on Jerusalem will have costly and deadly consequences.

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