Bracing for violence

Bracing for violence
A high-profile contingent of top US officials have landed in Israel to attend the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem. US President Donald Trump’s..

A high-profile contingent of top US officials have landed in Israel to attend the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem. US President Donald Trump’s daughter and White House aide, Ivanka Trump is part of this group.

Israeli troops have killed dozens of Palestinians who were protesting against the US embassy move to Jerusalem.

Background

The conflict between the people of Jewish ancestry and Palestinians can be traced back to Biblical times. Israel is the world's only Jewish state. The Jews staked claim for a land of their own due to religious reasons. They trace their origins to Abraham, whom they consider their patriarch. A number of Jews migrated to Europe predating the Roman Empire. Though a prosperous community, the Jews were subjected to a wide range of restrictions and discrimination.

Around late 19th century, there was a rise of nationalism amongst the Jewish people with many calling for a separate state. In February 1896, Theodor Herzl authored Der Judenstaat, a pamphlet that laid down the case for a modern Jewish state. This pamphlet would become one of the most important texts in the Zionist movement. Religion was used as the foundation for the claim. In the early 20th century, thousands of Jews emigrated to Palestine and established Kibbutz.

In 1947, the United Nations adopted a plan to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish sections. In the immediate aftermath, the war between the Arab nations and Israel took place. The Arabs were initially on the offensive, but their military resources dried up when the UN declared an arms embargo on the region. In 1949, Israel signed a series of armistice agreements with the Arab nations involved. No peace treaties were signed and in 1967, Israel fought the decisive “Six Day War” against Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

Major wars such as the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War and the Gaza War have been fought over the years. Nearly every effort by the international community to establish peace in the region has failed.

Analysis

On December 6th, 2017, US President Donald Trump pivoted from decades’ long US foreign policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump’s announcement triggered a wave of protests and violence across the Middle East. In addition, the US administration announced that it would be withholding nearly half of the initial aid it was planning on giving to a UN agency that helps Palestinians. The region is considered vital and holy by both Israelis and Palestinians.

On May 2018, President Trump’s daughter and White House aide Ivanka Trump landed in Israel to officially inaugurate the new interim US embassy in Jerusalem. Her husband, Jared Kushner, who is also a senior White House official, will also be present for the ceremony. The opening of the embassy coincides with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently praised Trump's "bold decision" as the Israeli foreign ministry held a festive ceremony to welcome the US delegation, which also included 12 Congress members.

As rallies and protests are expected along the frontier, Israel has bolstered its security forces especially along the Gaza border. In the past few weeks, tens of thousands of Palestinians have participated in the “Great March for Return” protests in Gaza. The protests are expected to end by May 15th. The rallies have witnessed violence and resulted in the deaths of forty nine Palestinians and over 8,000 have been wounded. The IDF has noted that these rallies have been violent and described them as a "riot." The Israel Defence Forces have also stated that those protesting have burnt tires and hurled rocks at the security fence towards Israeli soldiers.

Ivanka Trump has meanwhile taken to social media platforms to celebrate the embassy opening. “We look forward to celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary and the bright future ahead,” Ivanka wrote on Instagram ahead of the opening, which will take place on Monday, exactly seven decades since the country declared independence. “We will pray for the boundless potential of the future of the US-Israel alliance, and we will pray for peace.” More than 1,000 Israeli police, including special patrol units and undercover officers, will be working near the event on Monday.

The international community has almost unanimously spoken against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His move was condemned by 128 countries in the United Nations.

Assessment

Our assessment is that the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could make the region, already struggling with multiple conflicts, all the more volatile. It might also mark the end of the US as an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation. We believe that Trump’s decision to move the embassy is the fulfilment of a campaign promise he had made to the pro-Israeli American-Israel Public Affairs Committee.

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