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Rather than using their oil wealth to combat this burgeoning alliance, the Arab oil monarchies sought to strengthen their own ties with Israel all the time taking shelter in an Arab 'Peace Plan' that never got off the ground.

Tariq Tell is an Assistant Professor of Political Studies in the Department of Political Studies and Public Administration at the American University of Beirut. Dr. Tell received his D.Phil in Politics from Oxford University.  Focusing on the political economy and development of the Middle East, Tell is the author of The Social Origins of Middle Eastern Monarchy: The Moral Economy of Hashemite Rule in Jordan. (New York: Palgrave, 2013); and editor of The Resilience of Hashemite Rule: Politics and the State in Jordan before 1967 (Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur le Moyen Orient Contemporain, Beirut, 2002).


ILNA: What was the reason for Donald Trump’s insistence on transferring the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Al-Quds?

Family and domestic political reasons both played their part. Trump's son in law Jared Kushner is a radical Zionist close to Israeli PM Netanyahu and no doubt had a great influence on this decision. But the decision also makes sense given the nature of both Trump's and the Republican Party’s domestic base and the importance of the Christian Religious Right in the coalition that sustains right wing US presidents. It is an article of faith among these Fundamentalist groupings that Israel’s right to Jerusalem is enshrined in the Old Testament. Non-JewishZionists in their great majority they are possessed by a messianic religious eschatology that sees the Jews' ‘return’ to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple as a sign of the coming of Judgement Day -- when they – as Calvin's ‘elect’ – will ascend to heaven!

ILNA: Did the achievements of Israeli satisfaction overcome the discontent of the American Arab allies in the Middle East?

Yes and of course it has done so for the key Arab allies of the US – the GCC states, Jordan and post Nasserist Egypt – ever since President Ronald Reagan forged close ties with the Likud in the 1980s. Rather than using their oil wealth to combat this burgeoning alliance, the Arab oil monarchies sought to strengthen their own ties with Israel all the time taking shelter in an Arab 'Peace Plan' that never got off the ground.

ILNA: How does Trump maintain a balance between these two issues?

He assumes or trusts – as have generations of US policy-makers before him that repressive Arab elites will successfully contain popular anger. While this assumption proved faulty during the Arab Uprisings, it is also the case that at the elite level the US no longer needs to do much to balance the two issues – fixated on an alleged threat from Iran, the Arab Gulf monarchies are keen to push for a de facto peace and follow Jordan in moving towards rapid normalization of relations with Israel.

ILNA: How do you assess the legal dimensions and implications of this decision, given that Trump's decision against Al-Quds is a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 478?

Ever since the decision to partition Palestine in 1947 states have paid lip service to the idea that al-Quds should be an international city. In practice this has been no more than a polite (international) legal fiction and under UNSC 242 East Jerusalem at least has been considered territory occupied after the June 1967 War. Technically it is this legal framework that Trump will in fact be violating with his recent move. However, the idea of East Jerusalem as occupied territory has long since been undermined in practice by the Oslo agreements and Jordan’s renunciation of its role as interlocutor for the Palestinians (until 1988 also full Jordanian ‘citizens’) resident on the West Bank. Although Amman’s disengagement from this area remains purely administrative (it is still part of Jordan under the country’s 1952 constitution) the rise of the PalestinianAuthority since 1993 has meant that the West Bank (and Gaza) can in practice be treated as disputed territories rather than occupied ones. This includes al-Quds but here both Israel (in the July 1994 Washington Declaration that preceded the Wadi‘Arabah accords) and the PA (under Abbas but not Arafat) both recognize a role for Jordan’s Hashemite Kings in the administration/maintenance of the city’s holy places.The likelihood is that Trump will attempt to maintain this purely ceremonial role in order to provide a figleaf that Abdullah II can hang on to.


ILNA: The transfer of the embassy of United States is being executed a few days after the announcement of the Trump decision on leaving JCPOA. How do you assess the synchronization of these two events will affect on the region’s situation?

The synchronization of these events is part and parcel of an unholy alliance that sets Israel, the US and most of the GCC states against Iran as the main geopolitical barrier to Zionist expansionism in the Middle East. How far this block will succeed in rolling back Iranian influence in the region will depend on the internal situation in Iran (whether the country will become economically overextended because of its support for the ‘Axis of Resistance’), on the drain on Saudi and Emirati resources of costly regional entanglements like Yemen, and on how far the European Union’s core states are willing to go in defying Trump’s call for increased sanctions on Tehran. The signs so far are of a greater EU willingness to stand up to US pressure (although this is also due to the escalating trade war between the two sides) and in any case Iran can always balance the US threat by cooperating more closely with Russian strategies for a ‘Cold Peace.’ Here Iran could accept a de facto ‘Cold Truce’ and shift its resources from from overt armed resistance to Israel by its forces and Hezbollah to covert support for Palestinian proxies no doubt galvanized by the Trump decision.


ILNA: What is the impact of this decision on the Middle East peace prospect?

The prospects for peace are negligible at the moment and so are unlikely to be affected by Trump’s decision in the short term: the two-state solution is no longer viable given continued Israeli rejection and its ongoing colonization of the West Bank, while a one state solution is still some way off give the imbalance between Palestinian and Israeli power as well as overwhelming support for the status quo among the Western Powers and Russia. In the longer run, the scale of the popular mobilization against the Trump decision as well as the brutality of the Israeli response to the recent marches in Gaza are guaranteed to radicalize a new generation (of Muslims, Arabs as well as Palestinians) that reject the post Oslo charade. Hopefully they will come understand better than their elders that real peace is about the presence of justice rather than the absence of armed conflict, and that the former is incompatible with Israel’s continuation as a Jewish, and therefore necessarily a settler colonial, state that excludes, expels or oppresses theoriginal inhabitants of Palestine from the Jordan to the Sea.

Interview: Kamran Baradaran

Israel Tariq Tell Al-Qods
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