Jerusalem should be a uniting capital, not a dividing one

Jerusalem should be a uniting capital, not a dividing one

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is likely to set the Middle East ablaze again. This decision is mainly perceived by the international community as a step forward to realize another promise of Trump’s election campaign, hence a move to serve domestic political purposes in the United States. Peace in the Middle East, however, requires coordinated efforts of foreign policy, not of domestic politics.

Reaction to Trump’s decision across the world shows that the international community favors an objective, balanced and equidistant attitude from the parties involved. If the aim is to achieve a two-state solution, this has to be the reasonable approach.

Many believe that not only Israel but also Palestine has the right to see Jerusalem as its future capital and there is widespread recognition in the world that East Jerusalem will become the Palestinian capital when the final resolution will be reached. Trump’s decision, however, hurts the Palestinians and deprives the U.S. of an impartial attitude. Palestinian Authority, therefore, concludes that the U.S. can no longer be accepted as an honest broker in the Middle East peace process.

This is not a positive development. It is obvious that the U.S. is one of the major actors which has a significant role to play in the settlement of the Palestinian dispute. If the U.S. will no longer be perceived to deliver, this will make the Middle Eastern peace process vulnerable. One of the most fragile regions in the world, the Middle East needs stability, not vulnerability. Moreover, decisions of the United Nations and the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council should not be undermined. There is widespread interpretation in the international community that Trump’s decision fails to comply with international laws, too.

In Turkey, the Palestinian problem is considered to be an important foreign policy issue. It is important, therefore, to address the situation with relentless efforts of diplomacy. As Turkey holds the term presidency of the Islamic Cooperation Organization (ICO), President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for an extraordinary meeting of the organization on Dec. 13. The summit will be crucial in manifesting the solidarity and determination of the Islamic world to find a concerted diplomatic approach.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated that Israel considered Jerusalem as its capital and that peace could only be achieved if and when Palestine recognized this understanding of Israel. It is important to underline, however, that a two-state solution requires mutual understanding and respect to the other’s rights. If Israel continues to dictate its own terms of resolution for the conflict, the peace process will no longer keep its sustainability. One of the missions of the ICO on Dec. 13 could be to underline this again.

Last week, the foreign ministers of the League of Arab States (LAS) also addressed the issue and clarified their position on the recent decision of Trump. The call of the LAS to carry the question to the U.N. Security Council should also be considered as a way forward during the ICO summit as well. Such an approach will give the opportunity to recall the U.N. position on the matter and to reiterate the approach of the international community within the context of international law.

Turkey and Israel had embarked upon a delicate process of normalizing their bilateral relations after an interruption of six years. Both sides have realized that diplomatic relations and dialogue are essential to overcome differences of opinion. At a time when such dialogue is needed to ease the tension in the Middle East, it is necessary to embrace diplomacy as a valuable mechanism. Failure to do so will not only carry the risk of bilateral escalation but will also deprive Turkey of its capability to contribute to the resolution of the Palestinian problem.

Ünal Çeviköz, hdn,