Trump and Netanyahu, May 2017. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Trump and Netanyahu, May 2017. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Trump’s announcement last week marks the end of the peace process and once again Palestinians have been left in the dark argues Ahmad Muna from Jerusalem

I was listening to the radio on my way to work on Wednesday morning and all I heard for over an hour was the comments and expectations of what exactly the announcement that Trump was going to make will carry. He had called the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and had informed him that he is going to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. After hearing various opinions that morning I had started to think almost solely about this.

Can Trump really make a decision about Jerusalem? How can he? He does not really come from a political background, he is a failed businessman sitting thousands of miles away and he thinks he can give Jerusalem totally to the Israelis? Surely he is going to use this for cynical political gain; it is probably the only thing he promised in his presidency campaign that he is going to fulfil.

But, how about me? I am a Palestinian, I live in Jerusalem, and I live in the capital of Palestine. Jerusalem is my city and is my capital, I belong here, and in fact I do not belong anywhere else but here, in Jerusalem.

It only took me a couple of minutes to realise that I have a very strong opinion on this. And Trump should not have an opinion on it. Trump cannot tell me who Jerusalem belongs to. I have an attachment to this city that he will never have, let alone understand. He does not know its streets the way I know them and he will never understand how it feels to breathe the Jerusalem air, full of tenacity, on a Friday afternoon.

That evening I had made sure to be in front of the TV at the time of the announcement, I wanted to hear each and every word Trump was going to say. I stared at the screen in silence and had a little hope that everything I heard today is false, and Trump would have something else to say.

I would have much rather liked to hear him speak about reviving the peace process or speaking about a new initiative that would bring stability to the Middle Eastern region. However Donald Trump decided that he wanted to be remembered as the evil president that not only went against the 1980 UNSC resolution that rejected Israel’s declaration of Jerusalem being its united and eternal capital, but also to time his announcement just a few days before Hamas was supposed to hand over the government in Gaza to Fatah. This is an attempt to break off the reconciliation deal between the two Palestinian parties, who have finally reached an agreement after over 10 years of disunity and failure to form a united government.

The real question is what does it really mean to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and consequently move the US embassy here. In the short run and in terms of facts on the ground, nothing will change. Let’s not forget that Israel occupied parts of Jerusalem in 1948 and the rest of the city in 1967; and ever since the city has been under Israeli military occupation where Israel maintains full control over Jerusalem and its inhabitants – a third of whom are Palestinians.

The announcement does, however, carry a lot of political weight. First and foremost it sets a precedent for other countries to follow Trump’s move. It would become normalised and it would only be a matter of time before we see more consulates and embassies moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In the long run, when we speak about this day we are also going to mention that it officially marked the end of the peace process. Jerusalem to the Palestinians; to many Arabs and to many Muslims around the world is the red line that should not be crossed until and unless a final agreement which Palestinians have a say in is reached.

Although Trump mentioned that he wants to facilitate a peace agreement and confirmed the US commitment to a just solution for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis, I am afraid that it’s too late after he’s clearly made the situation even more favourable for Israel. To me, as a Palestinian, I can no longer trust the US in bringing together a fair solution and ending the conflict.

After this statement and in any potential negotiation talks, the Palestinians will have even less control over the issue of Jerusalem because the Israelis will use this recognition as a reference and a starting point to confirm Jerusalem is already their capital.

I was asked on several occasions the following morning what I think the Palestinian public will do, what I think the Palestinian reaction will be? And I struggle a lot to find my answer to these questions. I am always reminded of the lack of leadership we have when it comes to these questions. Really, what can the Palestinians do? They called for a strike and organised three days of activities and demonstrations to express their anger towards this decision, but that will not reverse the US position, or for that matter have any effect at all. It is not the first time the Palestinians have been let down and had their rights taken away from them. I can only hope it will be the LAST time.

Even if we wanted to turn our heads to our Arab neighbours for support – who are supposed to sympathise with us – we know we won’t be gaining much. I would have expected some of them, who have positive/open relationships with Israel and the US, to use their influence in our favour. I would have expected, at least, that they would ask the US ambassadors in their countries to relay condemnation and a refusal to accept this shameful decision and to demand a better explanation of their stand on the conflict.

It appears however that we Palestinians are left in the dark and have been let down once again by our Arab friends to live with this ugly reality and to witness the hopes for our self determination and justice being erased in the face of this wicked president.

  • Ahmad is a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, he received both his BA and MSc in Finance at the University of Kent. He currently works as a store manager in his family business, the Eduactional Bookshop in Jerusalem, and is also the co-founder and Executive Director of Leaves of Canaan.

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