On the 21st, the UN General Assembly decided to demand Trump move the US embassy out of Jerusalem and back to Tel Aviv. In a lack of solidarity, the UK decided to go against its key partner in the ‘Special Relationship’ and its self-proclaimed key partner and ally in the area. While Australia and Canada abstained, the UK voted to censure their greatest ally over the recognition of a de facto state of affairs. If the goal was to dampen the flames that Trump’s declaration was widely expected to have fanned, it could be argued it failed. It did nothing for the UK-US relationship, which was becoming increasingly strained following the Bombardier court case and Trump’s moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Indeed, it could even be argued that supporting U.N. Resolution ES.10/L.22 did not only fail to calm tensions in the region but merely inflamed them further by forcing a division. It seemed to be a replication of what they were decrying, as it is unlikely that unilateral action decrying unilateral action would calm the region. What makes the British approval of the resolution embarrassing is that while it declares the status of Jerusalem is to be decided at the end of the peace process, the UK is somewhat guilty of what they declare to be Trump’s ‘crime’: unilaterally deciding who’s Jerusalem is. While the UK’s representative to Israel is in Tel Aviv, the UK’s representative to the Palestinians in is Jerusalem – a disconcerting double-standard. It would be more rational if the UK’s representatives to both were to be located in Jerusalem, or for neither to be. Mr Abbas’ office, along with the rest of the PA’s administrative bodies, is located in Ramallah. It would be easy to move the representation to Ramallah, as until the final peace agreement is put into place, which would follow the government’s policy of de facto ignoring Jerusalem.
The question then could be raised that if the UK has its representation to the Palestinians is in Jerusalem, and its relations with Israel have not been affected, it could also do the reverse. Yet unfortunately, this is not the case as the PA have repeatedly shown themselves not to be fully interested in the peace process. It is an extremely tenuous process, hamstrung by the absurd prerequisites for open talks to begin, something unknown in nearly all other similar negotiations. Despite numerous offers from the US, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and ‘The Quartet’ (the EU, Russia, US and the UN) to host talks, since 2014 the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly refused to negotiate with Israel. As President Trump pointed out, it does not seem that the status of Jerusalem is the issue holding the peace process up.
Trump’s embassy move has clearly stirred things up, but the cliche holds true that every problem is an opportunity. This is an opportunity to restart the peace process again as now the PA, who previously had been stalling, realise that they have to come to the table soon, or they will lose more of what they wish to gain. When President Obama declared that all the land beyond the 1967 borders was ‘Occupied Territory’, it effectively gave the rights of the land to the Palestinian Authority. Why should they negotiate for 90% of the disputed territory, when they should legally have it all? It is easy for us to see how this – and countless UN resolutions reinforcing this – has created a situation not conducive to negotiations as it is irrational. Nearly all major compromised achievements have come when both sides realise that they need to negotiate and be prepared to give up on their demands, and until this happens in the Middle East, I doubt we will see neither a restart of peace talks nor an end to terror.
Indeed, I think that Trump may have unwittingly lanced a boil and provided the nations truly work together, a long-lasting peaceful solution can be found which will enable us to focus on the other, more pressing, middle east issue: the expansion of Iran.