News Analysis: Indifference on streets of Jerusalem, while concern looms over prospects of peace after Trump's declaration

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-08 03:19:38|Editor: yan
Video PlayerClose

JERUSALEM, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- It was a cold morning in Jerusalem on Thursday, hours after American President Donald Trump made what many Israeli Jews thought was long time coming, namely, the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

But the controversial decision which has the potential of bringing violence to the streets of the city and to the Middle East region as a whole, was treated largely with indifference. It will probably make little difference on the ground.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and subsequently declared both the east and western parts of the city as its capital. The move, which was consolidated by an Israeli law in 1980, was never recognized by the international community.

The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as part of their future state and the international consensus, backed by several United Nations (UN) resolutions, is that the status of the city will be determined through negotiations conducted by both sides.

Jerusalem is home to holy sites of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

As holy as it is explosive, its actual small size does not represent its large sensitive international position.

Trump's announcement that he was "acknowledging the obvious" could be just the match to light a new fire of violence.

Dr. Uriel Abulof, an associate professor of politics at the Tel Aviv University and a research fellow at the Lichtenstein Institute of Self Determination (LISD) said violence is ever-present in the region.

"There is almost always violence in one way or another in this region, but it could very easily get out of hand, ... very easily escalate," Dr. Abulof told Xinhua.

"We live in a violent neighborhood," said Prof. Naomi Chazan of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Chazan is a former member of parliament for the left-wing Meretz party.

But Jerusalemites are so accustomed to violence, the new threat does not make an impression on many residents.

"Maybe there will be some protests, but I doubt there is going to be any violence," said Nasser Ghawanmeh, an Arab resident of Jerusalem, who walked the streets confidently with his five-year-old daughter.

"I don't think there's going to be any changes ... nothing really," Ghawanmeh told Xinhua.

Almost 40 percent of Jerusalem residents are Palestinians with residency but no Israeli citizenship, meaning they have no right to vote for the Israeli parliament.

"Everything will be OK, everything will be calm, as opposed to what everybody thinks," said Yehezkel Sabag, a Jewish resident of Jerusalem. "It was about time, this should have happened a long time ago."

"I am always wary of violence," Nehemia Zamosh of southern Israel told Xinhua, "But this fear cannot prevent us from being fully satisfied by this move."

"I do not care what he (U.S. President Trump) wants to do," said Fatma, an Arab resident of east Jerusalem, who works as a caretaker in a Jewish old age home. As she hug her Jewish patient, she smiled and said: "We want peace. Just that. For us, for our children."

In the immediate aftermath of Trump's declaration, Palestinians demonstrated throughout the West Bank and east Jerusalem. There were reports of tens of injured protesters in clashes with Israeli forces.

The Israeli military said it identified rockets fired towards Israel from the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip.

For Palestinians, Trump's departure from a old policy is a blow to their national aspirations. But is it really the end of their hopes?

"This is far from killing the Palestinian aspirations ... because realities in the Middle East are determined on the ground, not in Washington DC," Dr. Abulof told Xinhua. "Right now, there is deep unwillingness on both parties to truly engage in negotiations ... until this will happen, Jerusalem will not be widely recognized as the capital of either of the people."

For years, the basis of negotiations between the two sides was the presumption that the end result would be a two-state solution. Trump, who has already made statements saying this is not the only possible outcome for the age-old conflict, has changed the rules of the game.

"This symbolic action raises a big question mark around the two-state solution and leaves us with no clear direction on where to go," said Prof. Chazan.

The major shift in American policy might mean a major shift in how the sides see the conflict.

"With this declaration, I think there is more prospects than ever that this solution (the two-state solution) will be off the agenda," Dr. Abulof believes.

This may not necessarily have a negative outcome, but might bring the sides to look at this differently, in a more creative manner.

Any solution in Jerusalem will be a complicated one that perhaps needs some out-of-the box thinking. Many of the city's Jewish residents live on the eastern side, neighborhoods which were declared a year ago as illegal settlements by an unprecedented UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution.

The UNSC is expected to convene Friday to discuss the status of Jerusalem in light of new developments.