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Trump’s plan to move US Embassy to Jerusalem will inflame passions in an unstable Levant
It is a century on after the controversial Sykes-Picot Treaty between the British and the French to carve up the lands of the Levant, then known as Asia Minor, amongst themselves and the Russian Empire, although Imperial Russia was already crumbling. It is also notorious in the Arab world for the promise made by Sir Mark Sykes, the British diplomat who lent his name to the document that the Jewish people should get their own homeland in the area. Although Israel was not created until 1948 after the horrors of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis, the horrific culmination of centuries of European anti-semitism, the existence of the Jewish state was tenuous all the way until the the dramatic Six-Day War of 1967, where the tiny Jewish state preemptively attacked and destroyed the armed forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. We all know that Egypt lost the Sinai Peninsula and Syria the Golan heights. But it was Jordan that lost the most, as King Hussein, the custodian of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the holiest sites in Islam after the mosques in Mecca, lost control of Jerusalem when Israeli Commandos stormed the holy city. Jordan lost the entire West bank (or the Jordan River) which came under control of Israel and now will form the basis of any Palestinian state.
Jerusalem has been holy for years and all three Abrahamic religions draw legitimacy from that city. It is the site of Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock stands, it is where Jesus was condemned and crucified, and the site of the Western Wall, supposedly the only surviving bit of the Second Temple. It is a city fought over for centuries, a city where faith is above all else. It was the ultimate goal of the Christian Crusades into the Levant. And it is a city, where 50 years ago, an image of three Israeli paratroopers in front of the Western wall taken by legendary photographer David Rubinger remains so iconic. The Jewish people so long locked out of their holiest city had retaken it. Yet, Jerusalem remained a divided city, a city that was important and holy to both Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews. And no country wanted to upset the status quo and even Israel, which declared Jerusalem as its capital, runs itself from the coastal city of Tel Aviv. Jerusalem has been a violent hotbed for sectarian clashes and murderous rampages by religious madmen. And the issue of Jerusalem has been dealt by the world with a long, long stick as nobody wants to provoke another round of violence.
Nobody but Donald Trump, the American President it seems. His decision to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem effectively seals America’s acceptance of the holy city as the Israeli capital. It is extremely unlikely that any other nation, including India, will join the United States in their move. For one, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel earlier this year, India also shares good relations with many Islamic nations that would be outraged by this decision. India also has very close relations with Israel’s arch-nemesis Iran. But Donald Trump clearly does not care for the status quo. And while that may not be a bad thing, given the current state of affairs in the Arab world and the Levant, which is in crisis from Yemen all the way north to Syria, this might make matters quite sticky for the United States going forward in 2018.
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