This week Donald Trump did what he had promised, he took the decision to move the USA embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This move has been met with shock and condemnation throughout the world. This is because Jerusalem remains a contested territory in the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Jerusalem is a city where three major religions of the world; Christianity, Judaism and Islam have co-existed for centuries, albeit often under capricious moments. It has also been a home and a holy site, in equal measure, to the Arabs and the Jewish nations. Whilst the status quo under which these two nations and the three religions have been less than satisfactory it has nevertheless been the acceptable consensus. Trump’s move breaks with established international and ecclesiastical consensus. It is also a departure from almost seven decades of well-known American policy, which is that the status of Jerusalem is yet to be resolved. Trump’s move also forestalls a negotiated resolution of this very difficult issue in the Palestinian- Israeli conflict. There are many efforts that are underway to try and have the Tel-Aviv representatives and the leadership of the Palestinian authority to explore ways through which violence and heightened tensions can be reduced. This is hard enough, but to then introduce a new contentious move of recognising Jerusalem as exclusively Israeli is merely to pour petrol in an already inflamed situation. There will never be any conclusive peace agreement between these conflicting parties until a resolution to the Jerusalem matter is found.
This step is evidently and intentionally provocative. By this action Trump is just being who trump is, a bully boy who wants to provoke and cause unnecessary tensions. He is wiping away the delicate collectivism and multilateralism that has been at the heart of international policy on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This is clearly a trend that has been emerging in the last couple of decades. We saw it through the multiple raids on Iraq, the sadistic assault on Afghanistan, the destruction of Libya and the continued use of the UN veto system by the USA in blocking any meaningful international intervention on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The critical issue that arises out of these un-diplomatic tendencies by successive American governments is whether the United Nations as a platform from which international diplomacy is conducted is still germane. What purpose do the United Nations and the Security Council serve in a situation where the USA continuously shows so much disrespect to collective efforts of the nation states of the world in resolving conflict? The decision by President Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel should be an opportunity to rethink modern diplomacy and multilateralism. The helplessness with which this decision has been met is a clear indication that the UN and related international bodies have become obsolete and have outlived the period for which they were constructed. It is important and urgent to have a sustained conversation on what form of diplomacy can be efficacious and what shape should multi-national interventions be in conflict situations.
Rev Dr Prince Dibeela is Vice President of the Botswana National Front. He writes in his personal capacity.