Jerusalem: Transforming a Hit into an Opportunity


Walid Salem – TRANSCEND Media Service

7 Dec 2017 – President Donald Trump’s 6 Dec decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem represents a crucial change in the American policy. This change can be described as a shift from the previous biased mediator position to the new position of the partner with Israel in its plans towards the Palestinians.

This shift is not only a violation to the international law and the UN Resolutions regarding Jerusalem, but it is also a violation to the 1993 Declaration of Principles known as Oslo Agreement, that was signed in the White House then. According to that Agreement (Article 5), Jerusalem as a whole will be subject to negotiations between the two sides including its East and West parts. The agreement also warned against any procedures to be taken unilaterally in a way that will prejudice against the permanent status issues including Jerusalem. President Trump decided unilaterally to go beyond this Oslo commitment and to give Israel a capital in Jerusalem before an agreement about its borders and its division between the two sides. This is a crucial violation.

Process wise, this move to unilateralism violate against the multilateral/ international concerted efforts to solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. As such it will give the Israeli government additional motives for increasing its unilateral steps to change the landscape of Jerusalem in a way that will leave no place and no space  to the East Jerusalem Palestinians in the city, who will face more and more ethnic cleansing and forced migration from the city. Different means will be used in this regard such as the evacuation of the Bedouin neighborhoods around Jerusalem, ousting Palestinian communities from the city (such as Kufur Aqab, and Shufat Refugee camps), and identity cards confiscation.

The response to this American move might take one of two shapes: The first is to give President Trump a chance to develop the “ultimate deal” and present it to the parties in the coming months. Those who adopt such a position say that in his speech President Trump spoke about the two states solution, the preparation for the deal, and that the borders of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem will be decided by negotiations. That is in addition to his call for the preservation of the status of the holy places in Jerusalem.

The second argues that the hopes on the Americans to present a solution are over, after 26 years of trial and error in the negotiations since Madrid 1991 conference till today. As such, this response calls for the adoption of other path to get to the Palestinian State on 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. The path advocated includes creating a Palestinian nonviolent campaign for independence, establishing Palestinian facts in the ground especially in area C, Gaza and East Jerusalem, linking Gaza and West Bank together, promoting the Palestinian people unity, struggling for more international recognition of the State of Palestine, and suing occupation in the international courts.

The second looks to be a path for the creation of a new momentum towards the Palestinian statehood. It advocates that the Palestinians should start this path, and then to ask the international community to support it as a path to their national emancipation.

As such, the second position argues the hit can be transformed to an opportunity for the Palestinians to get their right of self determination in their independent state.


Dr. Walid Salem is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He was born in East Jerusalem in 1957 and teaches democracy and human rights at AlQuds University. He is a writer of thirty books and training manuals, and tens of research papers on Democracy, civil society, citizenship, refugees, and Jerusalem. He is also a consultant, evaluator, and trainer for several public and private bodies. Salem trained more than thirty thousand Palestinians on these issues since 1990, and, since 1993, he is the Director of The Centre for Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem. He is the Coordinator of Middle East Citizen Assembly as regional network of experts and activists on citizenship issues that include participants from 19 countries from the region since 2004. He has lectured at several international conferences and seminars about democracy, Jerusalem, refugees, and development in Palestine.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 25 Dec 2017.

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