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Opinion: Moving the Embassy May Have Repercussions | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The US government’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Occupied Jerusalem is not a new move. Congress had already ordered the move more than a decade ago but every president since then has resorted to postponing it as they cannot reject the decision unless they go back to Congress and another order vetoing it is issued. This attempt may not even work. What is new is that the American President intends to implement this decision and has promised to do so.

In the context of talk about the embassy and moving it, I will discuss three aspects associated with this issue, and they are: the concept of Occupied Jerusalem, the historical aspect and the contemporary situation.

Since the State of Israel was established in 1948, the US and other major countries opened diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv, the first capital of the Jewish state. The US opened a large building for its embassy in 1966 in Tel Aviv and this complex remains the embassy’s official headquarters. Later, it opened a consulate in Jerusalem and its location changed over the years. It is now located in the Green Line area which separates the two Jerusalems of the holy city.

Vague Arabic political terms have been used when issuing statements; the term Occupied Jerusalem is used but usually means “Occupied Eastern Jerusalem” and not the entire city. They mean the part which Israel occupied in the 1967 war and that was under Jordan’s rule.

As for West Jerusalem, it was under Israeli control before that and was not included in any discussions or negotiations. It was a settled matter that it was under Israel’s authority. Some Arab politicians use the vague term “Occupied Jerusalem” in order to avoid getting involved in the issue of recognising Israel.

Historically, the Palestinians only had one chance to regain Occupied East Jerusalem and the negotiating delegation, headed by the late President Yasser Arafat, wasted this opportunity at Camp David in 2000. This has nothing to do with other Camp David negotiations.

At the time, the former President Bill Clinton decided to resolve the issue and put all his weight behind the negotiations. He reached a “reasonable” solution with Arafat and the Prime Minister of Israel at the time Ehud Barak that no one had proposed before.

The Clinton project was based on returning more than ninety per cent of the land in the West Bank and a hundred per cent of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians, linking them with a highway and putting them under the authority of an independent demilitarised Palestinian state. The project also specified that East Jerusalem, with its mosque and the Dome of the Rock, should be returned to the Palestinians, except for the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall that would be placed under international supervision.

Arafat, for an unknown reason, was absent from the last meeting and sent a delegation to Washington informing Clinton that they were rejecting the deal. The proposal therefore collapsed. Extremist Palestinian groups affiliated to Iran and the Assad regime such as Hamas and Jihad Al-Islami became active during this period and carried out armed operations against Israel. The extremist Israeli camp used these activities to prevent a new attempt to reach a settlement at negotiations held in Taba and then Barak resigned.

Arafat tried to revive the process but it was too late, and until today land is being stolen from East Jerusalem and all the occupied territories, realities are being altered on the ground and a Jewish presence is being imposed on these areas. This is a brief summary and explains why this is the case; politicians have failed to deal with options for war and peace.

Due to the destruction and displacement that has affected the Middle East in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the Palestinian cause is no longer central. We do not forget how extremists succeeded in exploiting the Palestinian tragedy to serve unscrupulous regimes. Iran attained the nuclear agreement in return for not harming America, and Hezbollah practically seized Lebanon in the name of the dishonest resistance. As for Assad and Qaddafi, they lost because of their inciting stances.

Finally, will moving the American embassy to Jerusalem end hope of establishing a Palestinian state? I think that moving the American embassy, or any other embassy, will not give legitimacy to the occupation. What we hope from US President Trump’s statements is that he uses this controversial move of the embassy in the context of the peaceful solution that he promised. Trump said that he would assign this task to his son-in-law, and this shows his keenness. Who knows? Perhaps the embassy will be the last of the political battles.