US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv has reignited the Palestinian cause, according to analysts.
Breaking with years of US policy, Trump announced the move on December 6, drawing international condemnation and sparking a wave of heated protests around the world.
No country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem.
The status of Jerusalem has long remained a sensitive topic and one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
Trump’s decision has “touched the nerve of the Arab people and the backbone of the international law”, said Salman Abu Sitta, chairman of the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad.
“The declaration has ignited the people’s feelings about Palestine and Jerusalem as its symbol, but it also exposed those who ran into the despicable position of the so-called normalisation,” he told Al Jazeera, speaking from Kuwait.
Jerusalem, home to holy religious sites, has particular significance for Muslims, Christians and Jews.
West Jerusalem was seized by Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from historic Palestine, referred to by Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe) when Israel was officially founded.
Israel subsequently occupied and annexed the eastern part of the city after its military victory in the 1967 war, but its control over East Jerusalem has never been recognised by the international community.
Palestinians want occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while Israel says the city cannot be divided.
‘Huge early Christmas gift’
With the issue of Israel and Palestine on the back burner of diplomacy in recent years, Trump’s decision comes as “a godsend” for the people of Jerusalem, explained Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist and columnist.
“Donald Trump gave Jerusalemites and Palestinians a huge early Christmas gift,” he told Al Jazeera.
“The 300,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem who have been political orphans received more attention than they could have dreamed of,” he added.
has certainly unified the ordinary Arab and Muslim citizens to demand their government to take a much more determined action to help the Palestinian cause and get away from the US.”]
The international community has never recognised Israel’s claim to the entire city.
Ghada Karmi, a British-Palestinian author and research fellow at Exeter University’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, said the move has given Israel “free license to take over the whole of Jerusalem”, but has also brought the Palestinian struggle into the spotlight again.
“It’s had a very unending consequence,” she told Al Jazeera from London. “It’s indeed returned the issue of the Palestinians and of Jerusalem onto the world stage.”
Karmi added: “It faces the official Arab position with a real question: how do they want to proceed from now on? They have to start thinking again.”
An extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was held in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Wednesday regarding Jerusalem.
The Jeddah-based group rejected and condemned the American decision.
“This is a violation of international law … and this is a provocation of the feelings of Muslims within the world … it will create a situation of instability in the region and in the world,” Yousef al-Othaimeen, OIC’s secretary general said.
‘Bold steps need to be taken’
A series of emergency sessions were held in the days after the US decision and the issue has been high on the agenda of diplomatic meetings and international summits.
Several members of the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting to roundly condemn the move at the UN headquarters in New York.
The Arab League also slammed Trump’s decision at an emergency session of foreign ministers from 22 Arab states in Egypt’s capital, Cairo.
But Arab and Muslim leaders have been criticised for not taking concrete steps against Trump’s decision.
Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas said there was no strong Arab official response and urged bolder steps.
“Embassies were not closed, ambassadors were not expelled and relations were not cut off or even frozen,” he said in a speech delivered by Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki on his behalf on Tuesday, adding that rejecting the decision is not enough.
Many believe Arab nations are “too compromised” in their relationship with the US to take any effective action.
“The Arab regimes issue statements and declarations for public consumption only,” said Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara.
“In reality, they are too weak or too divided to do anything about it.”
However, others feel there is increasing pressure on the diplomats from ordinary citizens.
The US move “has certainly unified the ordinary Arab and Muslim citizens to demand their government to take a much more determined action to help the Palestinian cause and get away from the US”, said Karmi.
Diplomats and experts have long vouched for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Afte Trump’s announcement, there is growing consensus that such a solution is “effectively dead”.
“This has exposed the fallacy of the so-called peace process,” said Abu Sitta of the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad.
Some also point towards a one-state solution now as the only option.
“This last action on the part of the American president by giving the whole of Jerusalem to the Israelis is obviously the final nail in the coffin of the idea of the two-state solution,” said Karmi.
Follow Saba Aziz on Twitter: @saba_aziz