Trump, Jerusalem and Arab indifference to Palestine

It’s not just Trump. The discourse of Arab leaders also marks the insincerity to achieve a real solution in the region.

Trump executive order Jerusalem Reuters
US President Donald Trump displays an executive order after he announced the US would recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Palestinians have been experiencing a collective sense of anxiety and anger ever since President Donald Trump announced that the US formally recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will begin the process of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.

The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is yet another painful blow to Palestinian morale as it once again showcases how international powers act without acknowledgement for, or recognition of, Palestinians despite them being the population that bears the brunt of the ramifications.

The problem with the US declaration, however, does not rest within the recognition and statement itself, but in the series of events which led to its manifestation. It’s a culmination of international failure to address Israeli human rights violations, perpetual US support to Israel, the incompetency of Palestinian leadership to achieve any solutions through diplomatic efforts, and more recently the new friendship the US administration is building with some Arab states.

History repeating itself

This year – the year Jerusalem is recognised by the US as the capital of Israel – also marks 100 years since Lord Balfour gave the Zionist political movement a right to a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The latest American decision thus, echoes the same sentiment whereby international powers ignore the indigenous Palestinian population and their right to self-determination.

Balfour declaration not only demonstrated the dangers of such unilateral statements, but also proved that Israel will employ them to advance their colonial agenda. The 1917 declaration paved the way for Zionist militia to raze Palestinian villages and take over Palestinian land, and today the Trump statement legitimises this history of violence by providing Israel with unrelenting support. 

The discourse of Arab states also marks the insincerity to achieve a real solution in the region, one that would hold Israel accountable for its crimes and provide Palestinians with their full rights.


Trump was correct in stating that “Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government. It is the home of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, as well as the Israeli Supreme Court. It is the location of the official residence of the prime minister and the president. It is the headquarters of many government ministries.” 

Jerusalem has indeed been treated as the capital of Israel for decades, albeit unofficially. It is because of this that the Trump recognition was made possible. The groundwork was already present, and so, all of which led up to this moment is evidence of the international community’s moral bankruptcy when approaching the Palestinian plight. 

The Israeli government has been enforcing absolute and complete control over the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, just as it has done in other Palestinian cities and towns. Palestinian Jerusalemites only possess residency cards, which can be revoked at any point, Israel continuously demolishes homes in Palestinian neighbourhoods under the pretext of lacking house permits, and Palestinian youth are discriminatorily targeted by Israeli forces.

It is such Israeli policies, the same policies Palestinians have protested for years, that hushed Palestinian voices so Jerusalem can be presented as de facto Israeli.

Arab leaders ignoring Palestinian cries

What is even more distressing is the fact that this would not have been possible without the compromises made by Palestinian leadership. Palestinian politics have been marred with factional rivalry, security collaboration with Israeli intelligence at the expense of Palestinians, and a series of concessions in the form of agreements and treaties that have never encapsulated the fundamentals of Palestinian demands; justice, liberation and dignity. 

And while Palestinians iterated for decades their demands for self-determination and basic human rights, the international community and the Palestinian leadership willfully ignored them to pursue another agenda that revolves around negotiations. This has only birthed more repression and a stark increase in the number of settlements. 

Today, we see both the international community and Arab leaders ignoring Palestinian cries for justice once again. This is evident in the dominating discourse of global and as well as Arab leaders – It revolves around the fear of another uprising, instability, and protest. There is no genuine address, in most the speeches and proclamations, to the roots of the travesty bestowed upon the Palestinian people in the form of a violent occupation.

The fixation on the possible reaction of Palestinians and Arab community as being the main reason to oppose this decision obscures the fact that recognition of Jerusalem as an Israeli capital is built on human rights violations and abuse.

It is the amplification of “fear the Palestinian’s/Arab’s reaction” narrative which may tragically be the framework to push for more negotiations as Arab states scurry to control the havoc of protest and the US pushes its vision for a peace that is merely a facade for giving Israel what it wants; a state without the nuisance of Palestinian existence. 

So while leaders around the globe proclaim that this move will bring an end to peace talks, the two-state solution and any stability in the region, the truth is there has been neither peace nor stability in the territories since the start of the Israeli occupation. 

The discourse of Arab states also marks the insincerity to achieve a real solution in the region, one that would hold Israel accountable for its crimes and provide Palestinians with their full rights. This is especially true as the flood of condemnations against the decision is propagated.

Palestinians have memorised this scenario and the reality that no action will be followed. The truth is, the US has an agenda that is aligned with Israeli interests and Arab states have been cajoling to the Trump administration, limiting any action.

Just this summer, we witnessed Palestinians protesting Israeli measures on al-Aqsa. Then too, there was condemnations and outcry from Arab states and international countries. However, this symptomatic and symbolic approach will only continue emboldening Israel’s occupation and takeover of Palestinian land.

Between the lines of Trump’s speech on Wednesday, there is Israel’s message to the global community. It foretells that if you commit enough crimes while reciting a story to the world, you will get what you want and get away with it.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.