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14 December 2017

Thank you President Trump

By: Daoud Kuttab
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I never thought I would say this.  But I must give a hearty thank you to President Donald Trump. In one statement that didn’t even include any action, he has given a boost to the Palestinian cause in general and has helped focus on the case of Jerusalem in particular. The strong reaction to the US president’s statement declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel has guaranteed that no Israeli or US official will ever again make the mistake of taking the case of attachment of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Christians and others to Jerusalem lightly again.

If anyone would have said a month ago that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian religious leaders, Egypt’s grand imam of Al Azhar and the Coptic Pope would all refuse to meet with a visiting US vice president, everyone would have said that this is impossible.
 
Just check what his action has done to the almost forgotten 350,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. These political orphans have suddenly found support in as far as Chile and Indonesia, in ice cold Toronto and in South Africa, Asia and Japan.
 
Cartoonists, with a special shout out to Carlos Latuff, singers, politicians and everyday people have all chipped in to remind the Americans, the Israelis and the world that you do not mess around with an issue like Jerusalem in this way. Even the pilot of Royal Jordanian, captain Yousef Daaja couldn’t resist as the Amman-NY flight flew over Jerusalem to tell his passengers that they are flying over Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine. Streets are being renamed with the words Jerusalem is Arab in many countries and on the very streets that the US embassy is located on as a constant reminder to US diplomats and their visitors of where people stand on the holy city.
 
Politically, the action of the resident of the White House has isolated America like never before. Instead of other countries following suit as Israel’s Netanyahu predicted, everyone ran away from Trump’s irresponsible and naïve action and publicly said no. Canada said no, Europe including the Czech Republic and Hungary said no and all others reminded the world that they adhere to international law and the logic of waiting for the results of negotiations before determining the result.
 
For years opposition groups in Jordan have begged the Parliament to move against Israel by at least revisiting the Jordan-Israel peace agreement without any success. Now with a single statement by Donald Trump, the most solid peace agreement Israel has had with an Arab country is being reviewed for Israeli violations.
 
What appeared as a solid and warm US-Saudi partnership was shaken up by this ill-advised statement. The honeymoon with Riyadh might have been fine so long as it was against Iran but when it shifted against Palestinians no MBS (Mohamamd Ben Salman of Saudi) or MBZ  (Mohammad Ben Zaid of UAE) or any other MB was willing to join in.
 
The poor delegation sent by the Bahraini foreign ministry made the miscalculation of wanting to visit Al Aqsa Mosque at the tail end of their visit to Israel. The youth of Jerusalem would not have any of this violation of the Arab Peace plan and made sure that the delegation does not get the pleasure of a selfie with the Dome of the Rock behind them.
 
While protests in streets virtually have engulfed the region, perhaps the most important accomplishment has been the reminder of the suffering of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the need to make good on earlier pledges by Arabs and Muslims to support them. Palestinians need to support the steadfastness of the people of Jerusalem and make sure that educational, health and housing needs are addressed as a way of encouraging the “sumud” (steadfastness) of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
 
The challenge now is to ensure that the current passion for Jerusalem does not disappear in a week or two. The need for sustainability requires that more sober strategic plans are worked on so as to translate this passion into action.
 
President Donald Trump and his Zionist donors and supporters probably had no idea that this would happen. They naively thought that the issue of Jerusalem is purely an Israeli-Palestinian one and that forcing the issue would somehow resolve it and push it out of the peace talks. They clearly had no idea how deep the issue of Al Quds/Jerusalem resonates in the hearts and minds of so many people around the world.
 
US President Trump also gave Palestinian leaders a great gift this holiday season. The leadership in Ramallah is no longer obliged to engage with Washington now that the US has clearly shown that it is incapable of acting as an honest broker in the peace talks.
 
President Trump, of course, has plenty of opportunities to fix what he broke. It starts by Washington making a simple statement that it has refused to make since taking office. It is high time that the Trump administration joins the entire world and the majority of Palestinians and Israelis in recognising that the only viable solution today is the two-state solution with an independent contiguous state of Palestine on the 1967 borders alongside a safe and secure state of Israel. This would be the way forward for Jerusalem, for Israel, for Palestinians and for peace.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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