The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President has ushered in a new era of uncertainty, nowhere more so than in the Middle East. The rules of the game have indeed taken a turn for the better for Bibi Netanyahou, who gave the final push to the construction of 566 new homes in East Jerusalem. The new lodgings will be built in Pisgat Zeev, Ramot, and Ramat Shlomo, Meïr Turjeman, the Head of the Municipality in Jerusalem, declared while adding that he has plans to build 11000 homes to accommodate the demands of the newly-arrived Jews. The deal seems to have the support of both the Prime Minister of Israel and the President Trump. The former is elated by the election of Mr. Trump and delighted that President Obama, who dealt in fact, not speculation, is finally gone. No wonder that some 430 000 Israeli settlers actually live in occupied West Bank and more than 200 000 in East Jerusalem, the part of the city Palestinians hope to turn into the capital of the state they aspire to found.
In point of fact, Bibi Natanyahou is having a celebration of a kind. The new order of things is pleasing to him insofar as he cannot wait to annex the rest of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and kill the peace deal with Palestine once and for all. He hopes to do all this with the blessing of President Trump and his administration. Even so, let us consider for a moment that the US government moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and that the “Eternal City” has indeed become the new capital of Israel. Let us also consider that Al-Aqsa Dome from which the Prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to Heaven is no longer standing on its foundations and that a Jewish Temple is built on its ruins. If that were to happen, and it could happen under a mentally unstable President Trump, I fear for the future of the region which might go ablaze once again.
The bill (Recognition Act) that was introduced by the three Republican senators on January 3rd —namely, Ted Cruz, Dean Heller, and Marco Rubio after they were sworn into the 115thCongress is aimed at encouraging the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The idea, encouraged by President Trump himself, is not new. Far from the truth. Both Bill Clinton and George W Bush tried to move the American embassy to Jerusalem but changed their mind once in office, deferring the implementation of the 1995 so-called Jerusalem Embassy Act, which stipulates that Jerusalem is Israel’s “undivided” capital.
The move by the newly elected Republican majority Congress to relocate the US Embassy runs contrary to world opinion in that not a single state acknowledges Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. It is for this very reason that not one country has an embassy there. If this were to happen, the country in question would be violating international law andUN Security Council Resolution 478. So, were the US Embassy to flit to Jerusalem under the watchful gaze of the Trump administration, it would not only contravene international law but also deny the Palestinian right to self-determination and return home. In point of fact, ever since 1967, Israel has been busy turning Jerusalem into a Jewish city: landscape, food, fashion, architecture, education, history, music, dance, and so forth. It has done so by adopting a policy ofJudaisationaimed at cleansing the city from its multicultural and multi-religious constituencies. Such a method of “purifying” the city includes the revocation of Palestinian residency introduced under the pretext of a “breach of allegiance,” barring Palestinian families from reunifying, practicing urban discrimination as well as zoning policy, and above all, constructing the infamous wall that disfigures and slices through Jerusalem and the West Bank, which has become a Bantustan of sorts. In addition, one must point to the collapse of the economy in East Jerusalem which had until recently a thriving tourism industry. All that is gone as I write.
The relocation of the US Embassy would also encourage Israel to go on building illegal settlements which are stifling some 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem who live below the poverty line. Add to that the housing crisis since Palestinians have access only to 13% of the land in East Jerusalem while Jewish settlers hog every day on 35% of the land. The alarming reality is that not only Trump but also Jared Kushner, a passive-aggressive special adviser of a kind to the president, and indeed his family donate colossal amounts of money to new settlements rising in Bet El, an area the size of Manhattan, situated north of Jerusalem. It is likely that the aggressive policy of annexation will inflame the situation on the ground, especially in light of the appointment of the US new ambassador to Israel, the pro-Israel hardliner, David Friedman, who heads the American Friends of Bet El Institutions and who maintains that the “holy city of Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people forever.” For Trump Zionism Inc. the annexation is not an obstacle to peace in the region but rather a reason for being for the Jewish state.
The upshot is that we are all in for a bumpy ride with the advent of President Trump. No one knows where we are heading: Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, China, North Korea, Cuba, Yemen, Afghanistan, the list goes on. A recipe for disaster, if you ask me. Let us hope that we, the people, will fight back for a better and just world, a world where there will be room not only for the “happy few” millionaires appointed byMonsieurTrump to head his government, but for the rest of us who are languishing to set our energy free. It is not too much to ask, is it!
An internationally renowned literary and cultural critic, Mustapha Marrouchi lives on borderline between the West and Rest. He is the author of half-a-dozen books, including The Fabric of Subcultures.