Tag Archives: Israel

Why Jerusalem matters

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Today President Trump made the United States the first country to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Jerusalem, of course, has been controlled by Israel in its entirety since 1967, and West Jerusalem has been administered by Israel since 1948. Israel itself is adamant that the undivided city will remain its capital. And yet, this decision could be one of the most destructive Trump has taken since coming to office. So how did this become such a debate, and why is this such a bad decision?

How did we get here?

 

 

Israel’s formation in 1948 was a messy affair which I won’t get into here, and it involved injustices on all sides. Jerusalem was just one issue. The UN has resolved that it should be a ‘corpus seperatum’ – a fancy word for a city that was neither Israeli nor Palestinian, but a holy place that should be internationally administered. However, in the 1948 war between Israel and the Arab states, Israel took West Jerusalem, and Jordan the East – the section which includes the Old City and some of the holiest sites to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Neither of these actions was legal under international law, and neither was recognised.

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Then, in the 1967 Six Day War, Israel took East Jerusalem as well, and immediately began treating the city as a reunited capital. The annexation was condemned by the UN Security Council, and has never been recognised by any state. The UN and all member states consider the status of all of Jerusalem an issue to be solved in an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. All states have their embassy in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem, as that would imply recognition.

 

In 1995 though, the US Senate decided to get involved, so they passed a resolution that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and that the US embassy should be moved there. Every president since has postponed moving the embassy every six months, as the resolution allows, and have not officially recognised it as the capital. Now, however, Trump has thrown this out the window. So why is this such a huge issue?

1. It cripples the chances for peace

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most difficult issues preventing peace between Israel and Palestine. It’s generally assumed that, in broad strokes, West Jerusalem could  become part of Israel, and East Jerusalem in some form the capital of Palestine, though the Israelis dispute this. However, an exact division always been an issue that would be up for discussion in a final settlement. The US siding with Israel makes a compromise far more difficult

2. It means the US can never again be an effective mediator in regional conflicts

For decades the US has tried to play a mediating role between Israel and Palestine – with not too much success. Despite the fact that the US is Israel’s strongest ally, in general they could at least present themselves as a fairly neutral partner in negotiations. However, by taking Israel’s side on such a vital matter to both sides, and in a way that no other country has, it will be almost impossible for the Palestinians to ever take them seriously again. Arab countries too will be infuriated – this is going to further damage the US’s position in the region.

3. It hurts the US’s relations with the world

The Trump presidency has not exactly been a success for the US on the world stage, with trust in the US plummeting. By rejecting a position that the UN and entire world have taken, Trump yet again shows that his administration is not interested in engaging productively with others. The idea that you cannot annex territory that you conquer in a war is so key to the way states interact – just look at how few states have recognised Russia’s annexation of Crimea. For the US to recognise Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem weakens their position in every way.

4. It’s being done for stupid reasons

Let’s be honest, does anyone think Trump has deeply held positions on the status of Jerusalem? He did this because the evangelical conservative base of his party wants to see it happen, and he could do with a boost in the polls. The idea that this will somehow “advance the peace process” is a joke – the Palestinians are hardly going to roll over and accept that Jerusalem is no longer up for discussion.

This is a decision no one agrees with, and that will help no one except the right-wingers in Israel and the United States. The days ahead will already show whether the reaction is as bad as I expect, but it’s already another confirmation that when you elect a terrible person president, you get terrible policy.

 

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Israel and one US Presidential hopeful

Today I want to take a look at a few statements Mike Huckabee made over the weekend about his position on Israel. These statements are important because he is running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, the most powerful office in the world. While he might not be the frontrunner, his positions on Israel and Palestine are a sign of how the Republicans are becoming steadily more one sided on this issue – one that will be a huge talking point in the upcoming candidate debates. Continue reading

Republican dreams, harsh realities

I’ve got my midterm exam for Middle Eastern Politics tomorrow, so I figured I might as well combine study and writing! 

Strong words, little sense (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Recently 47 US Senators sent a letter to Iran ‘informing’ them that any deal with the US on their nuclear program would be worthless, because the Senate would refuse to cooperate, and a Republican President could scrap the deal in 2016. The letter caused outrage in the US, and it was seen as deliberately undermining Obama’s foreign policy. Iran itself responded by simply poking holes in the Senators’ logic and knowledge of law.

While the letter itself is ridiculous, it does show the way US Republicans are thinking. One of these Republicans is Marco Rubio – one of the expected front-runners for the presidential elections in 2016. Rubio took to Foreign Policy yesterday to defend his ideas on Iran. Let’s take a look at what a possible future president thinks. Continue reading

Why nobody likes Bibi (except the voters)

In a shock result, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu has won last night’s general election. His Likud party gained 6 more seats than his leftist rivals, who had been predicted to win. In the end though, Netanyahu’s appeal to the nationalist right seems to have swung the vote in his favour. He should now be able to form a ruling coalition with other rightist and centrist parties. It’s a result that will frustrate many – including the unlikely combination of the Palestinians and US government. So why is Netanyahu so disliked by his strongest ally? And more importantly, what will this victory mean for the conflict with Palestine?  Continue reading

Nuclear Iran – 2 steps forward, 1 step back?

The Nov. 24th deadline for a final deal on Iran’s nuclear programme is fast approaching, with talks between Iran and six world powers remaining difficult. While failure to reach a deal doesn’t mean there won’t be another temporary deal, it will damage relations and give both sides reasons to provoke the other. The talks come at a time when the US and Iran need each other more than ever, with both sides fiercely opposing the Islamic State. So what are the issues being discussed? What are the potential stumbling blocks? And just how complex of a political game is this? Continue reading

Is Israel really the worst country in the world?

Of course not. But for many people across the world and at my university, it seems to be. Recently my study association BASIS organised a trip to the Israeli Embassy for our members. This provoked an interesting response from students who felt that by visiting the embassy they would be promoting ties between the association and “a country that violates international law”. They felt that either a boycott or harsh questions were necessary to avoid this promotion. But BASIS has visited the US embassy before without complaint and is planning to visit the Russian one. I’m sure most of these people would visit the Chinese or Cuban embassy. So is what Israel does really that bad? How do they measure up compared to other countries? And why do we seem to be so obsessed with its actions? Continue reading

Israel and Palestine – 5 problems for peace

Yesterday Egypt announced that Israel and Hamas had agreed on a long-term ceasefire to end the weeks of conflict that have left over 2000 people dead. While there have been short lived ceasefires before, this one is open ended and seems more likely to last. Apart from both sides ceasing rockets and air strikes, the agreement also means that aid and construction materials will be allowed through the blockade into Gaza. The two parties will meet again in a month to try to work out trickier points such as the disarmament of Hamas. However, this is just an end to this particular war. Without a permanent peace to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hamas and the IDF will be at each other’s throats again. So why is that peace so hard to achieve? The following are some of the biggest issues blocking the path of peace. Continue reading