Yousef Munayyer Reacts to Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement

USCPR Executive Director Yousef Munayyer appears on Al Jazeera English to discuss the ramifications of Trump’s announcement of the US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

YOUSEF MUNAYYER: Well, I think it’s very clear now from the statements that we’ve heard from leaders around the world, including American allies, that the President of the United States stands alone. I suppose with Benjamin Netanyahu along his side, but that’s about it. Look, there are many different states that have official diplomatic relationships with Israel. None of them have their embassies in Jerusalem, precisely because of how important that city is, how contested that city is, and how important it is that a neutral position remain in place on that issue until there is a negotiated agreement. So for the country that is ostensibly acting as the mediator between Israelis and Palestinians to be the only country to put their embassy in Jerusalem and the first to do so I think is really an indictment of the United States, and makes it very clear that they’ve abdicated any responsibility that they had in trying to mediate in any even-handed way. And I think the international community is making it clear that that’s the case.

DAREEN ABUGHAIDA: What are the implications on the ground of this decision as you see them?

MUNAYYER: I think the implications are very dangerous. First and foremost, my concerns are with the Palestinians living in Jerusalem, residents of Jerusalem who have been subject to very dangerous Israeli policies aimed at reengineering the demographics of the city. Things like home demolitions, house evictions, denial of access to holy sites, limitations on movement, residency revocations and so on. All of these policies now, and the Israeli politicians that support them, are going to be emboldened by American support behind the notion that Jerusalem is the capital of the so-called Jewish state. So my concerns first and foremost are with the Palestinian population on the ground, who will undeniably come to face even greater pressure because of these Israeli policies.

ABUGHAIDA: What does this mean for the region as a whole if you look ahead in the short term for us? What direction do you see the region going in as a result of this decision?

MUNAYYER: Well I think that for a very long time, we have seen this so-called peace process mediated by the United States, and it has more or less maintained the status quo. But it has kept a lid on things. And now there is a huge question as to what is the future of even the facade of this process? If the United States is unable to at least maintain the pretense that negotiations are going to result in an end to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, that remains an open question again, and another source of conflict and contention. So I think this is destabilizing, and it has revealed what many of us have known for a very long time, that now is forcing even those that have maintained up until this point that there is hope in Washington-mediated negotiations, that that is no longer the case.

ABUGHAIDA: And for the Palestinian leadership, what is their next steps? Abbas spoke a few hours ago, but in true Abbas-PA fashion, he was very vague on what the Palestinian Authority would be doing next.

MUNAYYER: Well, Abbas is sort of the biggest loser out of all of this. Coming into this decision, about 67 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem wanted him to resign. He has nonetheless continued to argue to the Palestinian people that the best way forward towards achieving an independent Palestinian state is through this peace process, and time and again he has gone back to Washington. And now Washington has once again thrown Abbas under the bus on one of the most important issues to Palestinians, which is the question of Jerusalem. So Abbas now has to go back to his people and provide a different answer, a different strategy, or allow the opportunity for new leadership to present a new path forward.