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Decision makes Middle East peace a more remote prospect

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-08 08:30
US President Donald Trump delivers a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. In the final remarks that concluded his first visit to the region, US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is "possible". [Photo/Xinhua]

By recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday and ordering preparations for moving the US embassy there, US President Donald Trump defied the will of the majority of countries, and not for the first time.
On June 1, he declared that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement to which the US was one of the 195 signatories.
In announcing his explosive decision on Wednesday, Trump claimed it to be in the best interests of the US and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. "This is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement," he said.
But nothing could be further from the truth. He has taken a giant step toward further destabilizing the volatile Middle East.
Shortly after his speech, protests erupted in Gaza City, Istanbul and Amman. More protests are expected in the days ahead.
The US likes to boast it has the most allies in the world, but Trump found none siding with him on this decision, not even close West European allies such as Britain, France and Germany, all of which warned him beforehand not to go ahead with it and slammed his decision afterwards.
As UN Security Council Resolution 194 states "the only way to peace is by establishing an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living in peace next to Israel".
"I want to make it clear-there is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
It is reported that some key cabinet members, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, did not endorse Trump's decision, even though the State Department later said it will immediately begin the process to implement the decision by starting the preparations to move the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.
Prominent people such as former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, now executive vice-president of the Brookings Institution, and The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, both Jews, criticized Trump's decision.
Trump claimed that he has the public's support, but few people in the US have come out publicly in support of his decision. The 45th US president is said to be merely fulfilling his campaign promise to some American evangelical and Jewish groups.
In doing so, Trump has made it clear that the US is not an honest broker in the peace process as it has long claimed and confirmed the widespread perception that it is biased toward Israel. No wonder that many Muslim and Arab leaders said on Wednesday that they will no longer accept US as the mediator for the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
With its clear bias and excessive meddling in the Middle East, the US has long suffered low favorability ratings in the Middle East. A Pew Center report in June this year showed that only 15 percent of people in Jordan and 18 percent in Turkey had at least a somewhat favorable view of the US in 2017.
Past US presidents refrained from doing what Trump did on Wednesday despite a 1995 law requiring the reloation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, by taking advantage of it also allowing presidents to waive the requirement at six-month intervals to protect US national security interests.
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all signed the waivers. Trump, too, issued a waiver on June 1 and again on Thursday.
His Wednesday announcement is not just a departure from long-term US foreign policy, but setting off a big bomb and making Middle East peace an even more remote prospect.
The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

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