The UK must act to counter Trump’s destructive Jerusalem decision

May 14, 2018

The UK must act to counter Trump’s destructive Jerusalem decision

Britain’s recognition of the Palestinian state would bolster hopes of peace in the Middle East and preserve Israeli democracy

People look out from the balcony of their house near the US consulate in Jerusalem

Since outside intervention in shaping our fate is already happening, why only the US? Where is the balancing move from China, Russia, Britain, or France?’ Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA

Not many of us in Israel imagined, in recent years, that the fate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be determined by outsiders. We always believed that our future should be discussed and negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians. Furthermore, the common view was that only the two sides should decide their fate and that we would not let anyone else impose a solution.

What is happening this week – the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in recognition of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital – proves that we were wrong (or maybe bluffing). With this dramatic move, which runs counter to all previous international resolutions on Jerusalem, Donald Trump is determining the fate of the conflict on his own.

It turns out that when President Trump one-sidedly intervenes on behalf of the Israeli government, the previously declared Israeli approach is quietly sidelined; most Israelis (me excluded) welcome this decisive US intervention. Palestinians, on the other hand, are devastated and feel cheated. They have no ability to block the move but have already declared that this US administration has disqualified itself from serving as an honest broker.

The US administration is doing what the sides always objected to – it is one-sidedly determining the outcome of the conflict, destroying the hopes of creating two separate states and in the process reshaping the fate of the Middle East as a whole.

Since outside intervention in shaping our fate is already happening, why only the US? Why only Donald Trump? Where is the additional balancing move, Chinese, Russian, British or French? If the US can intervene on one side, why not each of the other four permanent UN Security Council members? Each following its principles and its best judgment. Or why not all four together?

Britain should be the first in line. It is true that the British mandate in Palestine ended 70 years ago this week, but Britain still knows better than any other country what is at stake: the peaceful coexistence of Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land and the upholding of international law. Britain has long espoused both of these principles.

Whatever may have been the British intention in 1917 with the Balfour declaration, or in 1948 when Britain left Palestine, is it the wish now that the “national home” for the Jewish people will become a Middle Eastern fortress while the indigenous Palestinians turn into its unwilling subjects? This outcome should not be accepted.

The British government in which Balfour was foreign secretary clearly favoured a Jewish “national home” but also added: “Nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights” of non-Jews in Palestine. Do the British people now feel comfortable with a one-state outcome as their record and legacy in Palestine?

People of goodwill on both sides of this conflict need Britain to speak up. Trump can act as president on behalf of the US, but not on behalf of the whole world. The UK parliament has already called upon its government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel – the aim being two states whose peoples enjoy equal rights. It happened in the Commons in October 2014 when MPs voted by an overwhelming majority to recognise Palestine (274 for; 14 against). Now is the time for implementation of that wish. This is the policy move that could counterbalance Trump’s one-sided and dangerous move of his embassy. Such a British act of recognition would reaffirm Palestinian basic rights, restore hope, and it would help create the much-needed parity of esteem without which no peace agreement can be just or sustainable.

I would even go so far as to say that if Britain (ideally co-ordinating its policy with France) recognised Palestine, it could save the equitable two-state solution and the possibility of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Image result for Alon Liel

As an Israeli patriot who loves his country, I also see such a British move as vital to the preservation of Israeli democracy. Only the two-state solution that Trump has just fractured badly can guarantee a democratic Israel. A single bi-national state with a similar number of Jews and Arabs will not remain democratic. A British recognition would be historic and could bring about lasting benefits for both Israelis and Palestinians.

I know that such a move demands political courage, but we are speaking about principles that Britain claims to uphold and was always ready to fight for: freedom, justice and democracy.

•* Dr Alon Liel is the former director general of the Foreign Ministry of Israel and was also Israel’s ambassador to South Africa. He is one of the instigators of an Israeli campaign to advance recognition of a Palestinian state by European parliaments and governments


One thought on “The UK must act to counter Trump’s destructive Jerusalem decision

  1. There are many ways to see the US’s relocation its embassy to Jerusalem. I think the most historically significant view is steady assertion of nation sovereign – a key feature of American ideas – over theocratic form of government advanced by Islamism. Israel is a nation and it has right to declare where it wants its capital to be located within the boundary of the nation. American government, by moving its embassy to Israel’s capital, is simply affirming a fundamental feature of nation-state while at the same time ignoring the demand of religious-politico claim sourced to Sharia law, which dictates all lands occupied by Muslims must forever be under the Muslim government.

    Within the nation-state, Americans practice freedom of religions – individuals are free to exercise their religions without governmental restriction. Jerusalem and land under Israelis government are also practicing freedom of religions. Israel allows different sects of Islam to practice their religions; this makes Israel freer than Malaysia, the best Muslim-majority nation which does not legally allow the practice of Shia Islam. In other words, practicing Islam or other religions in Israel is not under threat by the government as long as the believers commit to the separation of religious institutions and government, a feature not found in any Muslim-majority nations, not even in Malaysia, the best Muslim-majority nation in the world.

    With the mixing of religion institution and government in the contemporary Islamic world, Dr. Alon Liel and some European governments are proposing and imposing an illusion that Palestinians are genuinely interested in the two-state solution. The fact is no Palestinian leaders dare to speak for the right of the Israel to exist (i.e. to live), lest they cannot meet the demand of Sharia law, which is overwhelmingly embraced by all Muslims including Palestinian Muslims.

    The world, through Trump administration, is asked to choose between Americanism and Islamism. What do you think Russia, China, UK, and French would choose, if they had no other choices?
    (Of course they have other choices)

    If Russia, China, UK and French choose to move their embassies to Israel’s capital, then the world is moving in the direction of asserting nation-state arrangement at the expense of Islamism (and Sharia law). It would be a further eroding of the idea of caliphate; the erosion would be the most significant one since Kemal Ataturk abolished Ottoman caliphate and built a nation-state called Turkey, which was once the best Muslim-majority nation before its leader moved to embrace Islamism.

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