Guest Columnist: Issa Aremu


With friends like the 45th President of United States of America, Donald Trump, Israel possibly needs not worry about the danger posed by Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement. Gaza is firmly under the heels of Hamas which unapologetically remains hard put to recognise the state of Israel.

On Wednesday December 6th, Trump acted true to character as a renegade president of the US by unilaterally recognising Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. He even dared to announce the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem! Of course there is already a bagful of his renegade policies: he’s set to repeal Obamacare, reneged on the climate treaty, set to reverse the deal with Iran, reversed Cuba-America detente, ad infintum.
No country parades such as a rogue president mid-way in the first term. True to expectations, amidst global outrage which trailed Trump’s diplomatic provocation, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya declared the US decision on Jerusalem as a “a declaration of war against Palestinians”. He called for a new “Intifada”.

The critical question begging for an answer is: what manner of a friend of Israel is Donald Trump, who through sheer political brigandage pushes Israel back to the brink of intifada (a Palestinian uprising manifesting in a series of violent acts and attacks against the Israeli occupation lasting from December 1987 to 2014 in which both the Palestinians and Israelis buried their dead)?
A received African wisdom states that “a close friend can become a close enemy”. With friends like Trump, Israel does not need to worry about Hamas leader Ismail Haniya. This is another paradox of the Middle East intractable conflict that both the enemies and so-called friends of Israel achieve the same goal: keeping the state of Israel in perpetual war of attrition! Reading through the 1,250 plus words of Trump recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel reminds me of the opening sentence by Simon Seberg Montefiore in his introduction to his best selling “Speeches that Changed the World” ( 2005).

According to Simon, a “great speech does not just capture the truth of the era; it can also capture the big lie”. Trump’s speech of December the 6th was comparable to Adolf Hitler’s of September 1938 in the sense that they both captured the “big lie” alluding to world peace when as agent provocateurs they both verbally worked for global war.

According to Trump, his predecessors had invoked “waivers” refusing to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem or to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. Apparently, Trump did not invent the idea of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, contrary to his verbal appropriation and empty grandstanding. Why should Trump be holier than the pope, even when we have just witnessed many devilish details – tear gassing, stone-throwing, shootings and killings – in the aftermath of his unthinking, self serving diplomatic adventure?

Former American presidents with an eye on peace in a war-torn region were commendably more measured in applying the controversial 1995 American-Jerusalem Embassy Act than a trigger happy President Trump bent on diverting attention from his domestic woes. So much for his “courage”!
Elie Wiesel, a celebrated writer and Jewish survivor of Nazi Germany had warned us about the perils of indifference. It is refreshing the world has risen in unison to condemn President Trump for further reinventing violence in Jerusalem and almost putting on hold the peace process in the Middle East.

According to Pope Francis, Jerusalem’s status should be preserved and needless conflict avoided. At his weekly general audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke with a heartfelt appeal to ensure that everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations. “Jerusalem is a unique city,” he said, “is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the Holy places for the respective religions are venerated, and it has a special vocation to peace.”

In his remarks, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, conveyed an international diplomatic rebuke: “Any unilateral measures that would jeopardise the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians… Jerusalem is a final-status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides. In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: there is no alternative to the two-state solution.”

He added: “There is no Plan B. Only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who hopes to politically profit from the domestic Palestinian red-herring, (just like Trump!) hailed Trump’s plans to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Most peace loving Israelis are not as excited as Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump. For instance, notable Israeli politicians such as Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On, a serving member of Knesset from 1999 to 2017, observed that moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could enflame the entire region. She warned that such a unilateral move could distance peace. Moving the embassy could serve Netanyahu but could brig about an unnecessary explosion.”

Ayam Odeh, Chairman of the Joint List, said: “Trump is a pyromaniac who could set the entire region on fire with his madness,” adding that the US presidents’s grandstanding “proves decisively that the United States cannot remain the sponsor or arbitrator in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians”. The African Union Commission also rightly questioned the United State’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. The chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, noted with deep concern the decision of the United States Government to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. According to the AU, the decision “will only increase tensions in the region and beyond and further complicate the search for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. He reiterated the solidarity of the African Union with the Palestinian people and its support to their legitimate quest for an independent and sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The chairperson spoke the mind of Africans in calling for a Middle East solution “based on the existence of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security, within the framework of the relevant African Union and United Nations pronouncements”.

It is really true that bad friends like Trump will prevent Israel from having good friends. By the way, one searches in vain for Nigeria’s position on Trump’s latest, reckless diplomatic adventure in Jerusalem. It’s time President Muhammed Buhari walked the talk at the 2017 UN General Assembly in September on key foreign policy issues such as the Middle East crisis. Increasingly, Nigeria’s voice is lost on topical international issues. At best, Nigerian foreign policy has become reactionary, reacting than setting the agenda for genuine global discourse.
Lest we forget, the late Nelson Mandela rightly observed that “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

•Aremu is a member of the National Institute, Kuru Jos.