The United Nations General Assembly had a historic day on Dec. 21. By an overwhelming majority of 128 to 9, it rejected the unilateral U.S. decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and demanded that "[a]ll States comply with the Security Council resolutions regarding the Holy City of Jerusalem and not recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions."
The General Assembly affirmed that, "[a]ny decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council."
The assembly also called on every state to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in Jerusalem in compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 478 adopted in 1980. This is a clear message to both Israel and the United States that their unilateral actions in regard to the holy city are illegal, null and void and will be followed very closely by the international community. The current U.S. administration led by President Donald Trump may dismiss the decision as nonbinding but cannot run away from the fact this is a huge slap to its unilateralist diplomacy.
The U.S. did not listen to warnings that this would lead to worldwide condemnation, isolate the U.S. and eventually rejected at the U.N. General Assembly. On the contrary, it went further and resorted to threats and blackmail hours before the vote. This will go down in diplomatic history as a dark time for the U.S., but a major victory for international law and higher moral ground.
This is indeed a historic moment in the history of the Palestinian struggle for independence, peace and dignity. The world has demonstrated that the people of Palestine and Jerusalem are not alone and will not be left to the whims and wishes of American or Israeli administrations against international norms and moral principles.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) extraordinary summit convened by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 13 in Istanbul made it clear that the Muslim world would not take this issue lightly and would pursue all relevant measures to stop any unilateral policy in regard to Jerusalem and Haram al-Sharif.
The consensus that emerged at the summit has gone beyond the Arab and Muslim world to include Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
This shows once again the illegality and moral depravity of Israel's decades-long policy of occupation, intimidation and dispossession. The vote affirms that there is no alternative to the two-state solution and that Israel must end its occupation and plundering of Palestinian territories. Instead of supporting the occupation, the U.S. administration must use its leverage to implement the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.
The Trump administration cannot claim to be an honest broker by giving carte blanche to Israel. It cannot win the trust and confidence of Palestinians or the Muslim world with threats and blackmail. It cannot advance with a new peace process by siding with Israel. The right move for the Trump administration at this point is to accept the U.N. General Assembly's vote, rescind its unilateral decision and declare east Jerusalem the capital of Palestine.
We should now capitalize on this historic moment to promote a fair and sustainable peace plan designed to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The world should continue its support of Palestinians and their aspiration for freedom, security and peace. All countries should recognize Palestine and treat the two sides of the conflict fairly and equality.
Together with OIC countries and Turkey as its term president, the EU should take a leading role in the next phase of the issue. As Javier Solana puts it: "The best way to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table is to work to level the playing field because the U.S. clearly won't do that, the EU must take the lead, sending a message that is as forceful as it is necessary, by immediately recognizing the State of Palestine." Recognition of Palestine by the EU will bring a badly needed degree of fairness to the table and give the EU leverage in future negotiations. The EU, the Arab League and the OIC should revitalize the peace process to implement the two-state solution.
The loud and clear message of the Dec. 22 U.N. General Assembly vote is that Jerusalem is not alone and intimidation, blackmail, occupation and dispossession cannot be a norm in the 21st century. It also underlines the fundamental fact that the problem is the Israeli occupation of Palestine – an occupation that must end in order for peace to come to the holy land and the Middle East.