The United States moves its embassy in Israel to occupied Jerusalem on Monday (May 14) in defiance of the Palestinians and most of the world — and likely further heightening tensions at a time of tumult in the region.
US President Donald Trump is set to make good on his pledge in December when he broke with decades of precedent and recognised the disputed city as Israel’s capital amid global outcry.
The Israeli regime is preparing a series of festivities, including a gala reception for the embassy dedication that will include members of a delegation led by Trump’s daughter Ivanka, his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin.
Dozens of foreign diplomats are expected, though many ambassadors of European nations who oppose the move will skip it.
Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania have reportedly blocked a joint EU statement on the issue.
A woman walks past a flower bed in the shape of a US flag and a sign welcoming the move of the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem, near the location of the new US embassy in occupied Jerusalem, on Sunday. Reuters
The Palestinians, political analysts say, are left with limited options to respond, yet they can be powerful options that would cause “perpetual headache” to the superpower.
The initial phase of the relocation will involve US ambassador David Friedman, and a small group of the staffers. The full relocation might take several years until the new building is constructed.
This [the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city] is the most flagrant and hostile act by the United States against the Palestinians since the beginning of the [Israeli] occupation.”
– Yasser Abd Rabbo | PLO Executive Committee member
“This is the most flagrant and hostile act by the United States against the Palestinians since the beginning of the [Israeli] occupation,” Yasser Abd Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee and former minister of information, told Gulf News.
He was among the very few Palestinian politicians who were involved in secret talks that led to the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993. Later, he participated in all the negotiations on implementing the accords.
“This is a violation of international law, and it makes the US complicit and a participant in violating international law along with Israel,” said Mustafa Barghouti, the Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, known as Mubadara, and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Barghouti told Gulf News the US recognition of occupied Jerusalem eliminated any possibility for the US to be a fair arbiter in any peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
Trump’s decision marked the end of decades of US foreign policy, which stipulated that the final status of the city be determined in the peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis themselves.
After the US announcement, the UN General Assembly voted 128-9 against the move, declaring Trump’s decision to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void”.
“This [the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city] is a violation of international law, and it makes the US complicit and a participant in violating international law along with Israel.”
– Mustafa Barghouti | Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council
Israel occupied and annexed both the eastern and western parts of the city and proclaimed it as its “eternal and unified” capital in 1980. No country recognised the move, until Trump’s announcement last year.
Trump is not attending the opening of the embassy.
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called on foreign leaders to boycott the embassy’s opening, “lest they lend legitimacy to an illegal decision and to continuous Israeli policies of occupation, colonisation and annexation,” according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
The ceremony comes a day before the Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of their Nakba or catastrophe, when Israel took over their homelands in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
Commenting on the options the Palestinians have, Abd Rabbo called for the implementation of the 1980 Arab summit resolution, which sought the suspension of commercial and political ties with countries that move their embassies to occupied Jerusalem or acknowledge the city as the capital of Israel.
Also, “the Palestinian response should come through working on achieving real internal unity,” said Abd Rabbo.
There are deep divisions between the main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, ruling in West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively, which are hurting the Palestinian cause.
“Palestinians’ options are limited, yet can be very effective if properly used,” commented Khalil Shaheen, director of research and policies, and board member at Masarat, the Palestine Centre for Policy Research and Strategic Studies in Ramallah.
Speaking to Gulf News, Shaheen said, “The Palestinians can have a veto, which is no less important than the one the US exercises at the UN Security Council, on any political process Trump tries to launch — either between the Palestinians and Israelis or at a regional level.”
The Palestinians can also escalate popular civilian resistance against the occupation, which can drain the Israelis, like the ‘March of Return’ that has been going on for the past few weeks in Gaza, Shaheen said.
Another option would be to accelerate the issue at the International Criminal Court, including colony-building, which “for sure will criminalise Israeli officials”, he said.
“The Palestinians can ask for the International Court of Justice to provide an advisory opinion on the US announcement on occupied east Jerusalem, and how it violates international law and UN Security Council resolutions. In other words, the Palestinians can formulate their political moves and cause a permanent headache to the US, and show [how isolated the US is in the position it has taken],” Shaheen said.
However, he added, “the Palestinian moves [at present] are not up to the desired level, because the leadership is still betting on returning to the negotiations table … Whoever bets on going back to the negotiations table will find it difficult to seek confrontation options at both diplomatic level, and on the ground. The Palestinian position is lame.”
The Palestinian leadership needs to change its policies and “get the attention of the world by showing its seriousness. It should tell the world, if you don’t pressure the US and Israel, an explosion is coming and this will affect the entire region,” Shaheen said.
Source: Gulf News