By Santo D. Banerjee
UNITED NATIONS (IDN) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been widely welcomed in Israel but it has also caused much anger among Palestinians and anxiety across the Middle East and beyond – at the United Nations too.
On December 6, Trump announced that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. In this recognition, he said that final status issues, including the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty, remain for the parties to determine.
He made clear his commitment to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians and called for the status quo at the Holy Sites to be respected. The announcement also signaled the start of preparations to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while renewing a six-month waiver by which the Embassy remains in Tel Aviv.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked President Trump for the decision. He reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining the status quo at the holy sites; and President Rivlin said that Jerusalem is not an obstacle to peace for those who want peace.
Palestinian President Abbas condemned the move and stressed that through this decision, the United States has withdrawn from its role as a mediator in the process. He warned of the potential consequences for security and stability in the region and underlined the need for immediately work towards national reconciliation.
Hamas described the proclamation as an attack against the Palestinian people and called on the PLO to withdraw its recognition of Israel.
Throughout the past 70 years, there has been broad agreement among UN Member States about the particular status of Jerusalem, including through Security Council resolutions 252 (1968), 476 (1980) and 478 (1980) as well as General-Assembly resolution 181.
The United Nations has repeatedly declared that any unilateral decision that seeks to alter the character and status of Jerusalem or that may alter these long-standing principles could seriously undermine current peace efforts and may have repercussions across the region.
Noting that from day one as the UN Secretary‑General, he has “consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” António Guterres said in a statement: “In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: there is no alternative to the two-State solution. There is no Plan B.”
He stressed that it is only by realizing the vision of two states living side‑by‑side in peace, security and mutual recognition, with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestine, and all final status issues resolved permanently through negotiations, that the legitimate aspirations of both peoples will be achieved.
Guterres pledged: “For my part as the United Nations Secretary‑General, I will do everything in my power to support the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful negotiations and to realize this vision of a lasting peace for both people.”
Briefing the 15-member Security Council’s emergency meeting via video-link on December 8, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative and UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East process Nickolay Mladenov said: ” I am particularly concerned about the potential risk of a violent escalation.”
He told the Council that for both Israelis and Palestinians, Jerusalem “is and will always remain an integral part of their national identity.” Moreover, for billions of people, it serves as a symbol and a cornerstone of their Christian, Jewish or Muslim faith. “That is why it remains one of the most sensitive places in the world.”
“[Yet] there is a serious risk […] that this will spark a chain of unilateral actions, which can only undermine the achievement of our shared goal,” Mladenov warned.
“It is now more important than ever that we preserve the prospects for peace. It will be ordinary Israelis and Palestinians – their families, their children – who will ultimately have to live with the human costs and the suffering caused by further violence,” stated the UN Special Coordinator, adding that it will be critical in the coming days that leaders demonstrate “their wisdom and make all efforts to reduce the rhetoric, prevent incitement and rein in radical elements,” he added.
Mladenov warned: “if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved on the basis of a two-state solution, in line with relevant United Nations resolutions, and in a manner that meets the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples, it risks being engulfed into the vortex of religious radicalism throughout the Middle East.”
He added: “There is a serious risk today that the parties may walk away from the negotiation table. That this will spark a chain of unilateral actions, which can only undermine the achievement of our shared goal. It will be critical in the coming days that leaders demonstrate their wisdom and make all efforts to reduce the rhetoric, prevent incitement and rein in radical elements.”
The UN Special Envoy recalled that in its report in 2016, the Middle East Quartet – comprising the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia – had called for steps to reverse negative trends that undermine the two-state solution so as to build the conditions necessary for successful final status negotiations.
“Today, that call remains as valid as ever,” he said and urged “the international community to fulfil its historic responsibility to support the parties in achieving peace and a comprehensive agreement.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 December 2017]
Photo: At podium on December 6, Secretary-General António Guterres reads a statement to the media on the Middle East peace process. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten.
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