Predictably, Trump’s decision to accept Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel has attracted condemnation by the mainstream media. Dramatic headlines predicted outbreaks of violence in the Middle East and the end of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Here is a brief explanation of the language used by Trump’s team to comment on the Jerusalem declaration.

The historical background of the Jerusalem dispute depends on how far back we are prepared to go in time. Palestinians prefer to look at it from the centennial perspective because prior to the emergence of modern Zionism in late 1800s Jerusalem was governed by the Ottomans and inhabited mainly by the Arabs. Jews on the other hand adopt a millennial timeframe claiming that Jerusalem was their spiritual capital for about a thousand years before the birth of Christ. But, pragmatically, what matters even more than ancient history is that Jerusalem was captured by Israel after the Six-day War in 1967 and has been under its military and administrative control since. This is what Donald Trump meant when he said that his declaration is a “recognition of reality”.

What is also worth noting is that the US Congress and Senate recognised Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel in 1995 and instructed the President to relocate the US embassy there no later than 1999. The three recent US presidents have since been signing waivers twice a year to delay the move – effectively ignoring the Congress direction. When Nikki Haley said that Trump’s decision represents the “will of the American people” this is what she meant.

It is also commonly accepted that, following the failure of the Oslo negotiations, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has gone nowhere. Since 2000 we have seen escalating bellicose rhetoric on both sides, punctuated by the periodic eruptions of violence – the worst ones being the 2000-2005 Second Intifada and 2014 Gaza War. All of this happened while the US Presidents were stalling the implementation of the Congress’ directive to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, ostensibly in order not to jeopardise the peace negotiations. This is what a senior Trump’s official meant when he said “It seems clear now that the physical location of the embassy is not material to a peace deal”.

As a result of wars and political processes, the negotiating position of Israel includes control over Jerusalem. It does not mean that the arguments of the Palestinians should be dismissed. What it does mean though is that the Palestinian negotiators have to recognise this fact and factor it into their strategy. This is what the former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, meant when he described Trump’s declarations as “Just a dose of reality”.



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