Republicans Could Spark A Third Intifada With Jerusalem Bill
Republicans challenge the legal status of Jerusalem
Three Republican senators risk sparking a third Intifada, or violent uprising by Palestinians against Israel, after they introduced a controversial bill to change the legal and diplomatic status of Jerusalem. This bill named Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act recognises Jerusalem as the official capital city of Israel and establishes the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The relocation idea is a plan of president-elect Donald Trump, announced early in December last year as a “very big priority.”
The sponsors of the legislation are Dean Heller of Nevada, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida. This is somewhat ironic, since Cruz and Rubio are two former runner-ups to Trump and now loyal supporters of his foreign policy ideas. Cruz said on Tuesday,
“Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s vendetta against the Jewish state has been so vicious that to even utter this simple truth – let alone the reality that Jerusalem is the appropriate venue for the American embassy in Israel – is shocking in some circles. But it is finally time to cut through the double-speak and broken promises and do what Congress said we should do in 1995: formally move our embassy to the capital of our great ally Israel.”
According to The Guardian, Heller added that some state department fund would be withheld until the relocation of the embassy, adding that
“For years, I’ve advocated for America’s need to reaffirm its support for one of our nation’s strongest allies by recognising Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. It honors an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill. While administrations come and go, the lasting strength of our partnership with one of our strongest allies in the Middle East continues to endure.”
The U.S. state department policy has for a long time held that the status of this territory will only be determined until final talks between Israel and the Palestinians take place. As one of the key pending issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, de jure, most of the UN member states and most international organisations do not recognise Israel’s ownership of Jerusalem nor its 1980 Jerusalem Law proclamation in which it declared a “complete and united” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Jerusalem is home to some of the most sacred sites in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, as explained by CNN
“Israelis see Jerusalem as their united capital. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.”
Because both Israelis and Palestinians revere Jerusalem, keeping it as a separate administrative zone, and not the capital, has helped to keep the peace in the Holy Land. Recognizing the holy city as a capital of Israel together with the move of the diplomatic mission is likely to provoke huge protests by Palestinians and others, who would view it as a nail in the coffin of the two-state solution. Critics have warned that this could unleash a wave of violence while it would also damage severely the possibility of a peace process in which a two-state solution could be viable. This could lead to a third Intifada.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Secretary of State John Kerry told Israel that the continuous settlements in Palestinian occupied territory were one of the main obstacles to peace after the UN Security Council passed a resolution against them. However, the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital would represent a huge blow against diplomacy, international law, the United Nations and the Palestinians.
Is the move just seeking to break with decades of U.S. foreign policy traditions or is it mere support to Netanyahu’s revenge and anger? Regardless of what lies behind, the consequences could be terrible and possibly even lead to a third Intifada and another collapse for peace in the Middle East.
Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images News