The United States is now casting itself as a disruptor of the world order and the peace it has maintained so far by jolting the very foundation of peace surrounding Jerusalem.
US President Donald Trump seemed self-assured as he announced: “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
In typical Trump style, he announced this major foreign-policy initiative in a tweet: “I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
The social media star succeeds again in winning eyeballs by boldly “delivering” his campaign promise and consolidating his support among pro-Israel political constituencies and mega military-industrial complexes. But his “recognition of reality” is only half true because the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act that calls for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem pitches Israel against Palestine.
Unlike what Trump backers said – “Jerusalem has been, and always will be, the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel” – Jerusalem itself remains divided and contested by Israel and Palestine who both want to declare it as their capital city.
Since that controversy itself lies at the heart of Middle East conflicts, the hollowness of Trump’s words were immediately exposed when he added that "we are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders”. His action takes sides even as his words said otherwise.
A White House spokesperson did note that the US still upholds the two nations of Israel and Palestine. However, the statement sounds hypocritical and full of hot air because it upends the basis of talks for Middle East peace and can hardly convince their allies.
Instead of being a step “to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement", the move ignites anger, fuels hatred, worsens division and disrupts any peace process as evidenced by reactions from the Muslim world and Middle East countries with the exception of Israel.
Those concerns explain why former US presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama had put US on the right track in the Middle East by not doing what Trump just did. Instead of being their failure as Trump declared, the “long step overdue” was not taken due to these presidents’ political wisdom to meet the commitments not only to Israel, but also to Palestine and the United Nations.
In depriving the freedom of travel of Muslims from certain countries recently, the US has alienated itself and instead of being the melting pot of the world is well on the way to incite conflicts with the Muslim world as advocated by some advisers infatuated with war against other civilizations. Hence, Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem once again widens the gap between peoples.
It seems the US and Israel often speak of their military might, but throughout Jerusalem’s 5,000 years of history, force has yielded only temporary but unwilling acceptance of power, but never “lasting peace” in the region.
The legends about King David of Israel itself are proof that might alone made Jerusalem neither a haven of peace as the word means in Hebrew, nor in wholeness and soundness according to the root meaning of the word.
To promote peaceful talks, the UN has many times urged respect for the historic status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem. In its most recent move, the UN General Assembly adopted six resolutions on Nov 30 while concluding its annual debate on the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East, “reiterated that any actions by Israel, the occupying power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem were illegal and therefore null and void”.
The General Assembly “further stressed the need for the parties to refrain from provocative actions, especially in areas of religious and cultural sensitivity,” but the US, which voted against the resolutions, simply went the opposite way.
It is not the first time that the US has gone its own way, in disregard for the UN, though the US has long been believed to be an upholder of the UN Charter that it helped to create.
By launching an attack on Iraq, the US tramped on its own role as the guardian of post-World War II order, and made humanity shed tears and blood by causing many deaths.
It is great for Trump to try and make America Great Again, but not by sacrificing the interests of the international community. People are often counting on benefiting from US prosperity and power, not on the sufferings brought about by the bombs rained down by US aircraft and drones and by made-in-US financial crisis.
The world community has just been able to expel one of the most inhuman organizations, the so-called Islamic State, out of its last strongholds in Syria and Iraq. It is only reasonable for these nations to start the reconstruction of their devastated homelands and start negotiations to settle disputes over land, rivers and air space instead of adding fuel to existing divisions and troubles.
By projecting his virtual reality macho screenplay onto the real world, Trump is further dividing the US and the world. His orders against other ethnic groups and nations are hurting many in and out of the US, and his breaking of US pledges for other parts of the world is not in line with international law.
His verbal vow to destroy another nation, which was made at the podium of the General Assembly – the very heart of the UN platform of peace building, is against the principles of the UN Charter drafted by US politicians and generals who fought and won World War II.
At a time when bombings and shootings are turning millions into refugees, leading to the starvation and deaths of children, and when climate change, largely caused by human errors, is threatening normal life in every part of the world, the people of the world need no more division, disruption and destruction arising from the outdated ideology of civilizational confrontation and dominance over all others.
The rejection of this US decision by most nations of the world is a definite “no” to such zero-sum games and Cold-War style mentality.
Win-win cooperation, mutual respect, joint construction and shared benefits, as proposed and expounded by Chinese leader Xi Jinping repeatedly, meet the urgent needs of today’s world.
If the US goes on to pursue self-centered deal-making at the cost of others’ interests and the world order, it will “strike its own foot with the stone it lifts” as a Chinese saying goes. It will damage itself and bring about its own destruction, possibly as dramatically as in popular US show-making.
The author is a senior writer with China Daily Asia Pacific. firstname.lastname@example.org