Political scientist Vyacheslav Matuzov talks about the consequences of Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the U.S. Embassy there.
The readiness of President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv is clearly music to the ears of the Israeli administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, this decision will undoubtedly provoke negative reaction from many members of the international community, not only in the Arab and Islamic world, but also in a number of other countries.
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, has taken a candidly negative position on this idea; this means that Europe is against it, too. Latin American countries, which traditionally support the Palestinians, will take the same position. The overall tone is clear: It is necessary to continue negotiations, and not to take unilateral steps that stand in stark contrast with earlier approaches to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
This change is an obvious sign that Donald Trump has succumbed to the political pressure of the Israeli lobby in the U.S. Moreover, this decision reflected his obvious lack of political and diplomatic experience. After all, Trump indeed will do more harm than good to himself by transferring the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Of course, Turkey declared that Ankara would break off diplomatic relations with Israel if the United States recognized Jerusalem as its capital. But the main impact will hit Washington, not Tel Aviv. After all, there is hardly anyone in the world that will follow this example — embassies will remain in Tel Aviv. And those who do not recognize Israel, even if they thought of changing their position, will now dismiss this idea. But the attitude toward the U.S. will change dramatically. When the media reported on the decision to transfer the embassy, the king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, immediately issued a condemnation, even without waiting for an official statement. And this is not just a separate country's position, but the position of the country whose leader heads the Al-Quds Committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which includes 57 states.*
Not so long ago in May, Trump met with leaders of the Islamic world in Saudi Arabia. More than 50 heads of state gathered in Riyadh. It would seem that this had been a triumph, a tactical victory that would allow the U.S. to build a strategy in line with its interests. However, mildly speaking, all of these achievements are now in question.
Until quite recently, Washington was determined to pretty much destroy Iran, which Trump considers one of the main threats of the current era. And many countries in the Arab world and beyond have held a similar opinion and were ready to provide the United States with all possible support. Now they have to face the fact that in order to retaliate against Tehran, they would have to support the country that has encroached on holy Jerusalem. No matter how much individual players like the Persian Gulf monarchies hate the Islamic Republic of Iran, they are now unlikely to be ready to mobilize at the call of the United States.
The same applies to the attempts of the current U.S. administration to reach a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement. Numerous trips by Washington representatives to the Middle East, negotiations with all interested parties, a forthcoming plan for resolving the conflict — all of that will go out the window. Now the only possible solution for normalization of the conflict, where over the decades there has been an understanding that harsh and unilateral steps are unacceptable, is to return to the status quo.
At the same time, Russia's position on this issue is very balanced. In April, Moscow also recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, i.e., West Jerusalem, and with the understanding that East Jerusalem will become the capital of the future Palestinian state. This declaration did not cause any problems. However, the American demarche has raised a wave of indignation and now threatens the United States with a number of unpleasant consequences. If Trump was pursuing such a goal, then he has achieved it. Although, it's still hard to believe.
*Translator’s note: The “Al-Quds Committee” (Jerusalem Committee) is an offshoot of the Organization of the Islamic Conference dating back to 1975. Chaired originally by Morocco’s late monarch, Hassan II, and now led by his son, Mohammed VI, its member states — all Muslim-majority countries — cover the Arab world, sub-Saharan Africa, and Central, South, and Southwest Asia. The stated purpose of the group is to support Muslim claims to Jerusalem and the upkeep of its Islamic holy places, together with the welfare of the Palestinian population and its aspirations to a state with Jerusalem as its capital.