US President Donald Trump has formed an alliance with Saudi Arabia and Israel to counter Iran’s rise in the Middle East by a series of developments initiated by their foreign policy decisions i.e. sudden announcement of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri’s resignation, recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and assassination of Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. But the most significant aspect is that Trump’s decision has undermined US hegemony in the region and ended up in unifying the entire Muslim world on the issue of Jerusalem.
The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has declared East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine “under occupation” and remained committed to a “just and comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution” thus rejecting the US stance as “dangerous” and called on the international community to follow in its footsteps.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas clarified that the US had “disqualified” itself from future Israel-Palestine peace talks after proving its “bias in favour of Israel”.
Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital. Jerusalem, located between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Jerusalem has been the core issue of the conflict between Israel and Palestine as both of them have been fighting for decades to get the control of the ancient city as their capital, however, neither claim has been recognized in the international arena. Though Israel’s parliament and the prime minister’s home are in West Jerusalem, the side of the city Israel has controlled since 1949. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Jerusalem was divided into East and West and during the six day Arab Israel war in 1967 Israel seized East Jerusalem from Jordian forces and declared as annexed. The international community views that land as occupied territory.
With the announcement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Donald Trump has reversed US policy in the Middle East by alienating the decades old relations with the Arab world, inviting condemnation from the countries, grave threat from the terror world and the unrest in the region. Trump has argued that he acted under a 1995 law passed by the then Congress during former President Bill Clinton to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
The ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians has been considered as the world’s “most intractable conflict” that began in the mid-20th century and Trump’s decision has revived the Gaza and West Bank violence. With this reckless and drastic move, Trump has permanently closed even the remote possibility of finding the peaceful resolution to the two-state solution. Palestinians and other world leaders say the move would spark violence and unhinge prospects for a Middle East peace accord.
Since 1988 the peace process had envisioned a two-state solution to the conflict – an independent Palestinian state and an independent Israeli state side by side.
Concerned that the December 6 announcement by Trump would further fuel instability in the region,Russia, China, the United Kingdom and the EU said the Jerusalem move is a roadblock for the two-state solution.
Hoping to reverse former President Barack Obama’s decisions, Trump revived US relations with Saudi and Israel by going an extra mile to enhance strategic influence and power of Netanyahu and supporting Mohammed bin Salman for recovering Saudi’s economy. US President went ahead by taking aggressive moves in Yemen, Lebanon, Qatar to reduce the strategic influence of Tehran in the region.
The 2014-2015 collapse in oil prices had dried up the Kingdom’s main source of revenue and was forced to draw on its foreign reserves. Realising that Iran’s economy was on the upswing after the 2015 nuclear deal signed with six nations, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made his intentions clear to Trump, Netanyahu and Jared Kushner, who is the Middle East peace envoy to put Iran in straits.
The rapid depletion of Saudi’s foreign exchange funds is rather alarming. According to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance, the 2016 budget deficit was due to unprecedented international and regional economic turmoil coupled with oil Prices that have been suppressed by the return of Iranian oil production. Sharp decline in oil prices, cost of subsidies and military spending, including the war in Yemen and supporting rebels in Syria, growing budget deficit, rising unemployment are all factors that have adversely affected the Kingdom’s financial position.
Saudi has been compelled to condemn the Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but the fact is Kingdom is secretly supporting Trump’s decision and by its latest gambit that intends to exacerbate Sunni-Shiite sectarianism in the region by pressuring the Sunni Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign in an effort to claim that an Iranian- Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon stands exposed.
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and designated Middle East peace envoy, Jared Kushner at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum has stated that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is key to solving larger goals, such as stopping Iranian aggression and Islamic extremism.
The assassination of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh on December 4 by Houthi rebels is significant development in the region as sectarian divisions are centuries old in Yemen but protests followed the 2011 Arab Spring. Saleh was forced to hand over power to Vice President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi after massive protests for failing to deal effectively against rampant corruption, rising unemployment and drastic economic conditions.
Saudi Arabia claimed that the Houthis were funded, armed and supported by Iran. Then regional coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched Operation Decisive Storm aimed to re-capture Houthi-held areas and restore Hadi’s government.
It therefore may be prudent that President Trump opens two embassies in Jerusalem one for Israel and the other for Palestine and should not be swayed by Saudis claim that they hold the keys to war, peace, and transformation of the Middle East.
By: Arti Bali