In December 2017, the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump upended seventy years of U.S. policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In doing so, it also effectively recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the city.
Subsequent months have seen several other reversals of long-standing U.S. Middle East policy. These include Washington’s stance on Palestinian refugees; diplomatic representation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the United States; U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides basic services to Palestinians living in refugee camps; and Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.
Amid repeated delays in the unveiling of the Trump administration’s much-ballyhooed diplomatic initiative, these radical steps have already revealed the basic lineaments of the purported “deal of the century.” They not only expose the pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian biases of the Trump administration in even more blatant form than is routine for U.S. policy-makers; they also constitute the administration’s wholesale adoption of virtually all the basic theses of the right-wing forces that have dominated Israeli politics since 1977.
In light of such policy shifts, launched in close coordination with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Trump administration has to all intents and purposes already publicized and implemented the main principles of its initiative. What remains is for Israel and the United States to determine how much Palestinian land Israel will annex, where and to what extent Palestinians can exercise severely limited forms of autonomy, and how much they will be offered to renounce their basic human and political rights. With the exception of its authors, there is virtually universal unanimity that this initiative is stillborn and can only produce further conflict.
In this monograph, Institute for Palestine Studies USA senior fellow Mouin Rabbani shows why the international consensus on Jerusalem that is rooted in international law—and of which the United States until recently formed a part—is so important. He argues that a unilateral disposition of the question of Jerusalem entirely in line with Israeli desiderata, now with Washington’s unequivocal support, has profound implications for the possibility of enduring peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Indeed, he suggests that it makes such a peace impossible.