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Trump's decision on Jerusalem: What difference does it make?

Moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may act as a catalyst for a reaction that has been waiting to occur

If you asked my mother and most of her generation what difference Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem would make, the answer would be: "None whatsoever."

Whether in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem, the US embassy would still be sitting on Palestinian land. This is a land that was invaded, usurped and occupied by Zionists who, many Palestinians still believe, don't belong where they happen to be living today.

My mother passed away 31 years ago still hoping that one day she would return to her birth place in Beersheba, or Bi'r Al-Sab', as it is known in Arabic. Since her parents and their children fled their house in 1948, she managed to visit the house she grew up in only once in 1974.

It had been turned into some offices. She stood at the door weeping and begging to be allowed in just to have a glance. "No chance," she was told.

The illusion of statehood

The generation of my father, who passed away just three years before my mother did, spent their youth fighting Zionist terrorists who came from Eastern Europe to dispossess them. They lost the war and lost the land.

Yet, he, too, never lost hope that one day Jaffa, Haifa, Safad, Bi’r Al-Sab’, Hebron and Jerusalem would once again be free and that he and his folks would return.

Apart from reminding them of their Nakba, I do not think that the US President Donald Trump's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel makes much difference to the majority of Palestinian refugees who have been waiting to return for almost 70 years and for whom every village and every town from which they were driven out is Jerusalem.

A quarter of a century after Oslo, the Palestinians have been left with much less land, much less authority and much less dignity

Perhaps the only Palestinians who might be concerned about Trump's symbolic gesture, which is aimed primarily at doing a favour to his friend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are those who still hang to the illusion of statehood on the basis of their own interpretations of UN Security Council resolutions, on the fallacy of the international community's goodwill and on the perceived promises of the Oslo Accords with the Zionist occupiers.

Having recognised Israel's right to exist in exchange for being recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, the PLO leadership in 1993 gave up the struggle to liberate Palestine from Zionist occupation.

Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas and their "comrades" agreed to transform the PLO from a national liberation movement into a Ramallah-based authority that coordinates with the Israeli occupiers over the management and control of those Palestinians who continue to live under occupation.

People praying during the holy night of Laylat al-Qadr inside Al-Aqsa mosque compound (MEE/Elia Ghorbiah)

Much less land, much less dignity

A major repercussion of downgrading the PLO was the transformation of the Palestinian issue from a struggle against foreign occupation, or against a Western colonial invasion project targeting the entire Arab and Muslim world, into a struggle for illusory statehood and a communal dispute between Arabs and Jews over some territories.

While the PLO leadership was willing to offer concession after concession, the Zionist occupiers never changed their vision of a Jewish state alleged to derive legitimacy from a God-given promise to a superior divinely-favoured race.

A quarter of a century after Oslo, the Palestinians have been left with much less land, much less authority and much less dignity.

The loss of land, the loss of life, the loss of dignity and the loss of hope are all combustive elements, and trump may just have provided the flame

One of the outcomes of the Palestinian compromise was the abandonment by Arab governments of what was once propagated as their primary cause and main issue of concern. "You cannot be more Palestinian than the Palestinians", has been the slogan used as a pretext by Arab leaders, from Egypt's Sadat in the late 1970s to UAE and Saudi leaders in more recent times, for seeking to normalise relations with Israel and end an age-long enmity with it.

Therefore, I would not pay much attention to the screams coming out of Ramallah or out of many of the Arab capitals.

Today, the Saudis, who have until recently prided themselves of being the Custodians of the Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina, are leading the way in the race to win Israel's heart. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is said to have made a secret visit to Israel where he met its leaders and discussed cooperation and normalisation.

Furthermore, it is quite clear that he has been acting as a main partner in the project codenamed "Deal of the Century", which involves, as part of a final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, allocating a village outside Jerusalem called Abu Dis for the Palestinians to set up their future capital.

The catalyst

Most probably, the Saudis and the Emiratis, together with the Egyptians, would have known about Trump's intention to initiate measures for relocating the embassy. It was reported earlier that when Mahmoud Abbas was summoned to Riyadh last month, he was informed about what he needed to do and what he was to expect.

No matter how bitter this tasted for him, there was nothing he could do but consent.

The fate of Yasser Arafat is something he has been keen to avert. The former PLO chairman and Palestinian president was liquidated when it became clear to the Israelis that he had been reconsidering his position.

It is widely believed that Israelis used some of his close associates to get to him.

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Today, the Palestinian Authority is nothing but a security agency paid for by donor countries to maintain the status quo and keep the peace with Israel.

Its officials, and for that matter officers, are entangled in close cooperation and coordination relations with the Israeli occupiers and stand to lose all the benefits they personally reap if they have a change heart or mind.

Having said all of this, it is not unlikely that Trump's decision will trigger a new eruption in the West Bank's volcano. Moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may act as a catalyst for a reaction that is waiting to occur.

This has been the routine in Palestine since the struggle against Zionism started soon after the Balfour Declaration a century ago.

The loss of land, the loss of life, the loss of dignity and the loss of hope are all combustive elements, and Trump may just have provided the flame.

Azzam Tamimi is a British Palestinian academic and political activist. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: A Palestinian youth walks past a protest banner in the West Bank city of Nablus bearing an image of US President-elect Donald Trump (AFP).

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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