TRUMP SHAKES UP MIDDLE EAST

Implementing a 1995 U.S. law that declares Jerusalem the capital of Israel, 71-year-old President Donald Trump dared to go where his predecessors balked. Fearing riots and maybe a new Mideast war, Trump decided to push the peace process along, telling the Palestinian Authority to fish-or-cut bait. With White House peace initiatives rebuffed, led by Trump’s son-in-law Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Trump took a new tack, deciding to recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and order the U.S. embassy to move. While raucous protest occurred in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, things were relatively calm in the Palestine Liberation Organization’s [PLO’s] West Bank. PLO’s 82-year-old Chairman Mahmoud Abass called for three days “of rage” to protest Trump’s decision. Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei called on all Muslim’s to unite to “liberate Palestine.”

Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem and move the U.S. embassy fulfills a campaign promise, despite the risks. U.S. diplomatic personnel around the Mideast were given a week’s notice to prepare for any repercussions. “It’s the right thing to do,” said Trump, recognizing that Israel’s controlled Jerusalem since June 10, 1967, the end of the Six Day War. “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said from the Oval Office. “Many presidents have said they want to do something and they didn’t do it,” Trump said, insisting the decision was long overdue. Israel has managed Jerusalem’s access to Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy sites since 1967. Trump’s decision states the obvious, despite the international community expecting the fate of Jerusalem to be negotiated in a Mideast peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump’s decision comes at a time when the U.S. is knee-deep with North Korea, threatening war on the Korean Peninsula. While recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital inflames Arab passions, there’s been no change in the peace process. Palestinians, should they ever come to the peace table, can still negotiate for East Jerusalem as their capital. Trump’s announcement is largely symbolic since Israel has managed Jerusalem since 1967. Pope Francis expressed concerns about possible unrest. “I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days,” Pope Francis said, concerned about fanning flames in the ever-volatile Middle East. Leaders from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany and Turkey all urged Trump to not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump’s decision pushes the Palestinians to get back to peace talks.

Arab and EU leaders expressed disappointment with Trump’s decision, if for no other reason, the U.S. pretended over the years to serve as an impartial broker for Mideast peace. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital rattled nations around the world. Erdgogan called for an urgent meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC] Dec. 13 in Istanbul to deal Trump’s decision. Erdogan warned yesterday that he would cut off diplomatic relations with the United States if Trump went ahead with the decision. Seeking “to display joint action among Islamic countries,’ Erdogan hopes to mitigate any fallout from terrorists. “:Such a step will only play into the hand of terror groups,” said Erdogan. Jordan, which once controlled East Jerusalem before the Six Day War, and Palestinians asked to convene the Arab League in Cairo. Trump’s decision does very little other than implement a 1995 U.S. law.

There’s little the EU or Arab states can do to stop Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. If Arab states want to help the Palestinian cause, they’d get back to the bargaining table and make concessions needed for an independent state. As long as Gaza’s Hamas and West Bank’s PLO remain divided, there’s little hope for peace talks. When you consider the deplorable living conditions in Gaza, it’s not beyond Hamas to start a new war with Israel. Wars typically result in donor conferences yielding Gaza officials billions in cash pledges from Gulf States. Trump’s decision directly relates to Palestinians unwillingness to come the bargaining table. Recognizing Jerusalem, pressures Palestinians to get back to peace talks or vacate their dream of a Palestinian state. Arab states like Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon know the costs of war with Israel.

Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem and move the U.S. embassy shakes things up in the Middle East. Everyone knows that Israel has managed Jerusalem for over 50 years, knowing Trump’s announcement is nothing new. Trump’s announcement should kick-start Palestinians to take peace talks more seriously or watch themselves become irrelevant. If Palestinians choose the path of violence, they’ll push hopes of an independent state out of reach. White House officials emphasize that today’s move in no way prejudices Palestinians rights or demands in future peace talks. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital says nothing about East Jerusalem, the key Palestinian demand for a future capital. With all the hot spots in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian problem has been only one part of a bigger picture of fighting Islamic gangs, like the now defunct Islamic State [IS] and al-Qaeda.