The contested city of Jerusalem : City of peace or city of conflict ?

Daryal Rocko Anal
Contd from previous issue
Irrespective of which political party comes to power, the US has remained a close ally of Israel but one may suspect and link the timing connection between the recent change of power in the US from Republican Trump (unquestioned support for Netanyahu‘s hard-line policies) to Democratic Biden in January 2021 and the emboldened Hamas. Israel is the closest ally of the US in the region and largest single recipient of US military aid.
As the issue has not just bilateral but also regional and international implications and involvements, it becomes imperative to understand the reactions of some major actors such as those of the UN, regional organizations and some other major countries or the five UN Security Council (UNSC) permanent members.
The UNSC met on 10th May 2021 but failed to come out with any official concrete solutions on the current crisis. However, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the current hostilities as “utterly appalling”.  The events have caused unconscionable death, immense suffering and damage to vital infrastructure.  The UN called for the fighting to end and declaration of ceasefire and deplored the increasingly large number of Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza from Israeli air strikes, as well as Israeli fatalities from rockets launched from Gaza.  The international community as well as the UN and UNSC are still divided on the issue. Israel is a full member (since 1949) of the UN and is so far recognised by at least 164 members of the 193 UN members while Palestine isa non-member observer State (since 2012)of the UN and is so far recognised by at least 138 members of the 193 UN members.
The European Union (EU) called for an immediate end to the ongoing violence from both sides and respect for status-quo of Jerusalem and freedom of worship. It condemned indiscriminate launching of rockets from Hamas and other groups towards Israeli citizens while recognising Israel’s legitimate need to protect its civilian population but the response needs to be proportionate and with maximum restraint in the use of force.  It has called for ensuring equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis. Over the years, the EU has urged Israel to abandon annexation plans and halt settlement constructions. The 27 member-EU requires consensus in its foreign policy and sincethere is strong division among the EU members, no EU decision could be taken on Israel-Palestine issue so far.
The Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) called for immediate halt to Israel‘s attacks on Gaza and blamed for systemic crimes against Palestinians. It called for de-escalation, highest degree of restraints and ceasefire.  It also sought intervention of international community to end the violence and revive peace negotiations. It is to be noted that while some Muslims and Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan have recognised Israel, many of them have not recognised Israel or have severed diplomatic ties.
The Arab League has held Israel responsible for the current ongoing violence. According to Arab League, Israeli violations in Jerusalem and the Government‘s tolerance of Jewish extremists hostile to Palestinians and Arabs is what led to the ignition of the situation. It is important to note that in 2020, the League’s members UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco normalized their relations with Israel. The Abraham Accord was signed by USA, Israel and Bahrain in August 2020 normalizing Israel-UAE and then Israel-Bahrain relationships.
The United States, the closest ally of Israel, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 and in May 2018 transferred the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as did Guatemala. The US interest in the West Asia goes beyond protecting Israel to strategic, economic/oil interest of its own. For the United Kingdom, Jerusalem was supposed to be a ‘corpus separatum’, or international city administered by the UN.  France believes that Jerusalem must become the capital of the two States. China recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine. Russia supports the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian State and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Although Russia has publicly recognised West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it continues to locate its embassy in Tel Aviv. Russia had recognized the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital already in 1988, and that it had not changed its view.
The Vatican reiterated its stand recognizing Jerusalem’s “identity and sacred character” and calling for freedom of access to the city’s holy places to be protected by “an internationally guaranteed special statute” and respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.
A number of countries have indicated that they could relocate their embassies to Jerusalem, including Honduras, Brazil, Serbia, the Czech Republic and the Dominican Republic. In December 2020, the Czech Republic indicated that in 2021 it will open a Jerusalem branch office of the Czech Embassy in Tel Aviv. Hungary had previously opened an official diplomatic mission in Jerusalem. After Israel and Kosovo established diplomatic relations in February 2021, Kosovo became the first European and Muslim majority country to open its embassy in Jerusalem in March 2021.
India‘s foreign policy towards Israel-Palestine issue has seen changes in the post-Cold War. It became more pragmatic or real politik. Since India got independence in 1947, establishment of Israel Nation in 1948, India was openly supportive of Palestinian issue to the extent that it did not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel till 1992. In fact, in 1947, India voted against the UN Resolution 181 partitioning Palestine into two as well as voted against Israel‘s admission to the UN in 1949. India recognised Israel State in 1950 and Palestine State in 1988. India has its embassy in Tel Aviv (Israel) and it’s Representative Office in Ramallah (West Bank, Palestine).

(To be contd)