Almost a week after US president Donald Trump announced his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the deep unrest prophesied by key players in the region is beginning to bubble to the surface. The Arab world and capitals across the Muslim world have witnessed angry protests against Washington and Israel and there has been an international outpouring of solidarity with Palestinians. Israel has dealt with protests with its usual brute force and launched air strikes on Gaza. There have been at least four fatalities in the last week, a number that will only rise as Mr Trump's decision continues to fuel the anger of ordinary people who justly feel betrayed by Washington.
There will inevitably be those who seek to sanctify their own murderous ideologies by invoking the suffering of the Palestinians. As Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, told a visiting US delegation on Saturday, the US decision on Jerusalem could "throw a lifeline to terrorists and armed groups, which have begun to lose ground in the region". Having made substantial gains against militants in recent months, this region now has to contend with the very real prospect of a "cause" that is up for exploitation by extremists.
The symbolism of Jerusalem transcends the logistics of Mr Trump's move. Its stability is critical to this region and will never be achieved by sowing discord. That was the message of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, at the UAE Cabinet meeting on Sunday. "Jerusalem, with its Arab identity and its historical and religious identity, is a holy land to people of different faiths," he said. "The UAE's position is to establish peace principles with the aim of guaranteeing Arab and Palestinian rights and lasting stability in the region."
Can the US be seen as an honest mediator or broker of peace after Mr Trump's blatantly pro-Israeli act? Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's decision to cancel his meeting with US vice president Mike Pence suggests any residual faith in Washington has evaporated. Similarly, the Arab League left little room for doubt when it declared at an emergency meeting on Saturday that the US had "withdrawn itself as a sponsor and broker" in the peace process.
"I think we should give peace a chance," declared Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he pressed the flesh in Europe yesterday. It seemed like a cruel joke; back home, Israeli truncheons are being wielded with indiscriminate ferocity against elderly Palestinians and children demonstrating against their own dispossession. The sense of outrage and injustice coursing through the region must result in a united Arab front. Palestinians deserve nothing less.
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