The future of the peace process

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In an earlier article, I argued that the Palestinian cause is absent at all levels including the media and politics, as well as public opinion because of the so-called Arab Spring. I attributed this absence to three factors: Arab countries are busy with their internal issues in light of deteriorating economic conditions and high prices; the emergence of “terrorism” has echoed throughout the media at the expense of developments in Palestine and a Palestinian internal division occurred after 2007. However, the recent announcement of US President Donald Trump acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem brought the Palestinian cause back to the forefront of the media and the political scene. The decision highlighted the fact that the Palestinian cause in general and Jerusalem in particular remain a central issue in the hearts and the minds of Arabs and Muslims.

Trump’s decision was to enforce the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 by the US Congress (23 October 1995) issued during the presidency of Bill Clinton. The Act calls for the substitution of the existing US embassy in Tel Aviv with a new one in Jerusalem. In recent times, US presidents including Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama have issued resolutions, every six months, to postpone the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Donald Trump, who also postponed the transfer of the embassy once last June, justifying that decision by saying that it made room for reaching a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, has finally decided to enforce the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. The question remains as to what might have made Trump, and not any former president, proceed to the enforcement of the Act. There has been much speculation and analysis, but I think there are two main reasons for Trump’s decision.

Firstly, pressure from Evangelical Christians, who represent a segment of his popularity. A group of hardline fundamentalist Christians from within the Republican Party, the party through which he ran for the presidency, put constant pressure on the president through his advisors during ordinary meetings at the White House. Spokesperson for the Evangelical Advisory Board at the White House, Johnnie Moore, said that he had no doubt of the key role played by the Advisory Board in the decision having been taken. He believed that it could not possibly have been made without them. Therefore, the constant pressure on the president pushed him to move forward with his decision.

Secondly, distractions in the Arab world. As has been argued above, as a result of the Arab Spring, the Arab world is busy with civil wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and with issues of reconstruction, state-building, security, development and reform in Tunisia and Egypt. In addition, the emergence of “terrorism” and “extremism” and the issues of combating terrorism have dominated the agenda of the Arab world. Thus, the Trump administration believed that the influence and impact of the opposition of the Arab world would be extremely weak.

Finally, I think the decision aborts the peace process, inflames the region and justifies the operations of terrorist organizations. Therefore, the US administration must reverse their decision and intensify international efforts aimed at the settlement of the Palestinian cause within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative, which represents an Arab-approved roadmap for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

— Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh. He can be contacted at Ibrahim.othaimin@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alothaimin


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