Sometimes in international diplomacy, decisions are made merely to appease competing nations, even when they are largely symbolic. This week, President Trump discarded generations of international norms in the delicate Middle East, formally moving the American embassy in Israel to the city of Jerusalem, a contested region claimed as a holy site by several religious groups.
While Trump accurately claimed that the area is treated as Israel’s capitol whether offended Muslim groups like it or not, the move amounted to a show of disgrace to many parties in the region. With a president with such a history of disgracing Muslims in the United States and around the world, offended parties in the region were quick to respond.
Now, the leader of Hamas, a Palestinian power designated by the United States as a terror group, has declared an “infitada,” or religious war, against Israel. “The American decision is an aggression on our people and a war on our sanctuaries,” Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, said. He told his supporters “to be ready for any orders.”
“We want the uprising to last and continue to let Trump and the occupation regret this decision,” Haniyeh said.
“He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims [and] hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel,” said Manuel Hassassian, Palestine’s envoy to the United Kingdom, of the move to Jerusalem.
This decision may jeopardize peace talks in the region. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been the administration official designated to oversee peace talks between Israel and Palestine, but he has made little progress so far. Some see this move as an indication that those talks will be abandoned, and a resignation to the reality of the power dynamics in the region, where Israel is militarily and economically far superior to its neighbors.