Middle East needs a new honest broker
In the wake of the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the deadly Gaza protests that followed, other nations must step forward to ease tensions and find a new direction
Israeli and American officials could not have been so wrong; on the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel, they hailed the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem as a step towards peace.
But as the dignitaries smiled on Monday, their words were being proven false at the border wall to the Gaza Strip, where the worst fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinians in four years was under way.
US President Donald Trump claims he will be able to broker the “ultimate deal” between the sides. His actions could not be more damaging and it is time for global and regional powers to take charge.
China joined calls for restraint, especially by the Israeli side, after 58 Palestinians were killed and thousands injured by bullets and tear gas in the violence. There were heated exchanges between Israeli and Palestinian envoys at an emergency UN Security Council meeting, but a push for an inquiry was voted down by the United States.
Decades of efforts to find a solution have been led by the US, which has portrayed itself as an honest broker.
But right-wing Israeli governments and Palestinian extremists have pushed the limits and Trump has shown no desire for neutrality; he sided squarely with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by choosing to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, viewed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital.
In keeping with a decision by the international community, successive American administrations were careful not to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The peace processes they promoted hinged on the core issues of ensuring Israeli security, establishing boundaries between the separate states, deciding the future of refugees and when all else had been resolved, determining the status of Jerusalem.
Trump ignored all that with his decision and in doing so, has damaged his country’s ability to be seen by Palestinians as a fair and trustworthy negotiator.
Challenges to peace abound, as this week’s violence proves. Israeli settlement building in the Palestinian territories, illegal in the eyes of the UN, continues apace, and Hamas extremists in Gaza refuse to renounce violence against Israel. In the absence of US leadership, others have to step forward to ease tensions and find a new direction.