Trump’s Jerusalem decision isn’t going over very well in the Middle East

Palestinian masked gunmen of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine point their guns at an effigy of US President Donald Trump, during a protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Gaza City. CREDIT: Khalil Hamra/AP Photo.

Despite insisting that his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital was not going be stumbling block to peace in the region, what President Donald Trump did with that announcement last week was to set in motion a wave of violence and to cast fresh doubt on the legitimacy of the U.S. role in negotiating peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

Trump also said that Jerusalem — a city whose status is the subject of decades-long disputes and negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis — will be home to the U.S. embassy in Israel, which will be moved from its current location in Tel Aviv in the next few years, pending the completion of logistical plans.

After meeting at a summit in Turkey on Wednesday, leaders of over 50 Muslim countries issued a statement saying the United States should “withdraw as a sponsor of peace in the Middle East.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who on the eve of the summit criticized the Arab response to Trump’s announcement as “weak”, announced plans Friday to escalate the matter before the United Nations, reported Reuters.

Erdogan said Turkey will launch a campaign to “annul” U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. He said the world needs to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and that he would be challenging Trump’s “unjust decsion” at the U.N. Security Council.

Apparently aware that he will face a veto there from the United States, a permanent member of the council, Erdogan said he is prepared to take the grievance before the U.N. General Assembly.

Meanwhile, protests in the region continued on Friday — in Jerusalem, several West Bank cities, as well as Jordan, where King Abdallah has been among the Arab allies criticizing Trump’s move, reported CNN. Indeed, as ThinkProgress reported at the time of the announcement, with the exception of Israel, Trump’s decision was panned by friends and foes alike in the region, with experts fearing that it would be used as a recruitment tool by militant and extremists groups.

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem has also brought into question the role of his son-in-law and Middle East adviser Jared Kushner, whom the president had tasked with crafting a peace deal between Palestine and Israel.

According to Newsweek, Israel is increasingly looking away from the United States to facilitate negotiations with Palestine and, instead, looking to Saudi Arabia for help. Newsweek notes that Israel and Saudi Arabia have a common enemy in Iran and that, perhaps, that commonality could be leveraged. Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz is quoted as saying, “I suggest that Saudi Arabia, as the leader of the Arab world, take upon itself this initiative and go to the Palestinians and offer their patronage. [The Palestinians] are too weak, they need someone to help them.”

Kushner, who has quantified the challenges facing the region as “a lot of real estate issues” has yet to make any headway in his mandate. But, in a December 3 talk in Washington, D.C., he said that while there is a plan for peace, the Trump administration has “been deliberate about not setting time frames.”