On Wednesday, New Zealand time the President of the United States, Donald Trump made the shocking announcement that America would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
New Zealand must condemn Mr Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We must not follow America and move our diplomatic mission there. The media and the politicians have ignored the history of the Palestinian struggle and it will come back to haunt them.
Not surprisingly Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is over the moon. And in recognition of it, against the walls of the old city, the American and Israeli flags were projected side by side.
In effect Mr Trump has ripped the Middle East process into shreds of paper and then thrown them in the face of the Arab world, the Palestinians. The Israeli Prime Minister and his hawkish Government, plus the hard line Republicans in the United States are the only ones applauding.
The effect is more than to just anger the Palestinians and the Arab world. Along with his inflammatory efforts dealing with North Korea and Iran, Mr Trump has now added a third place that he is offside with around the world. What are the conflict around the world at greatest risk of turning into international conflicts with potentially world wide consequences? There are a few:
- North Korea – on tenterhooks, with one false move possibly starting an international conflict that has regional, possibly global consequences
- Iran – not on tenterhooks yet, but creeping that way with America, Saudi Arabia and Israel ratcheting up the inflammatory rhetoric despite its compliance with the U.N. nuclear deal
- Eastern Europe – high risk, with N.A.T.O. forces building up and Russia actively seeking to counter their influence, and a boil over could rapidly escalate into an international conflict
- South China Sea – not on tenterhooks, but potentially the one with the biggest risks as a direct military confrontation between super powers is not likely to end well for anyone
- Palestine – comparatively stable for now, and would not have made this unique list but for Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
In 1917, whilst World War 1 was going full bore in Europe, Britain and France embarked on a bit of empire building in the Middle East. In 1916 two new nations were carved out, with borders paying scant attention to the ethnic or religious communities there. Their protestations were put down brutally and the new nations were called Iraq and Syria. In 1920 Winston Churchill – the same Winston Churchill who would be lauded as a hero 20 years later for staring down Nazi-era Germany – authorized the bombing and gassing of Iraqi rebels. Britain and France wonder these days why they are not so popular in the Middle East.
Palestine and the Arab lands did not do much better under the Balfour Declaration and people wonder why there is so much animosity in the Middle East. Let us have a look at how the Palestinian animosity towards Israel and the West came to be.
The Balfour Declaration came about for several reasons:
- World War 1 was not going well for the British and it was hoped that by announcing a formal Jewish state in recently occupied lands, Britain could increase the support among the Jewish communities in major allies and neutral countries
- Britain wanted to create a land bridge between crucial Middle territories such as Egypt with its “crown jewel” India – a British backed Jewish state would be part of that land bridge
- Despite agreeing with France on how to carve up the Middle East, Britain viewed its dominance in the region as essential
In the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919, Britain was entrusted with the temporary administration of Palestine on the understanding it would work with the Arabs and the Jews. The Jewish population increased rapidly in Palestine. Unlike the Jews, the Arabs were not granted any sort of nationhood despite helping Britain with the war against Turkey. Animosity over this continues to the present day.
So, it is against this background that Mr Trump has made a highly inflammatory and totally irresponsible decision to support Israel having its capital in Jerusalem. Combined with his refusal to rebuke Mr Netanyahu for Israel’s ongoing annexation by stealth of Palestine, this effectively amounts to a non-military declaration of war against Palestine and it should be roundly condemned.