Jerusalem as the undisputed capital of Israel. The whole of the city for the Jewish state. Stale status-quo flung out the window. A rogue stallion bolts from the stables. The honest, pragmatic and impartial peace-broker turns hostile overnight.
How do we make sense out of US President Donald Trump's declaration that America now recognises Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state of Israel? There have been stock responses — shock, denial, approval, dismissal of the move as a technicality. There has also been some odd linguistic inquiry into the text of Trump's speech.
And what happens next? Is this the end of the road for the state of Palestine? Or is it the beginning of a long, bruising Inftifada? Is this the official end of the long drawn "peace process"? Or is it the final shake-up that unites the Arab world?
Is Trump's act a double-cross or just plainspeak and a shot of realism? Is Trump someone to be sent to a lunatic asylum or the first American President to have made real impact on the Israel-Palestine conundrum?
Will the "gates of hell" open in the region as the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadidah promises? Or are there only going to be short-lived whimpers? Is the Arab Muslim world erupting in anger and rage?
A harder and closer look into the responses from main players in the region — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran etc — doesn't suggest so. The "allies" in the list had the same perfunctory responses marginally improvised to look damning and spiteful. Iran, of course, is fury personified as in all matters of Israel and the US.
Saudi Arabia said it was "greatly disappointed" over the "irresponsible and unwarranted step". Strangely, and curiously, the Royal Court decree says the government had previously warned the US of the consequences of such a step.
That's scandalous. It's tantamount to admission of its role in the move, it betrays a certain complicity in the game. Donald Trump doesn't listen to feeble warnings dressed up in fluffy language.
The Saudi reaction is meek, detached and is replete with diplomatic sweet nothings — "a just and lasting solution", compliance with "relevant international resolutions", 'Palestinians' legitimate rights and of course the "security and stability in the region."
It then adds: "Although this step does not change or infringe upon the inalienable and preserved rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem, and other occupied territories, and even though it cannot impose a new reality upon those rights, it does however exemplify a drastic regression in the efforts to move the peace process forward".
Last gambit in the game
It's strange that the fact that this is the "end of history" doesn't dawn on them. Or they just feign ignorance. Is there a "peace process" after the whole of Jerusalem goes to Israel? For Israel, ever since its creation in 1948, Jerusalem is its rightful capital. For Palestinians, East Jerusalem, which Israel took by force in the 1967 war, is the last, the very last, gambit in the game. If that's gone there's no negotiation, there's no peace process. There's only Intifada.
When negotiation is dead, what remains is elimination. And also humiliation. It's probably why Al-Hayat al-Jadidah headlined the Trump move as the "slap of the century".
And does Trump think humiliation is a pragmatic solution? Or a means to establishing peace? A strongly argued contrarian piece in Asia Times is interesting here. The article says Trump's decision to make Jerusalem the de jure and de facto capital of Israel makes "Middle East peace more probable".
"Wars end not when the loser is defeated, but rather when the loser is humiliated", it says, and brings up the nuclear bombing of Japan as an example.
To save Palestinians from the humiliation, their benefactors in the region must confront Israel. Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Turkey and Egypt should stay united and fight. As long as that prospect remains a fanciful hope it's humiliation all the way for Palestinians. If the US stays in the track chosen by Trump, there is no Palestine any more, only Palestinians.
To make Trump "reverse" the move its allies in the region should weigh in. However, their responses were rather customary, with most of these capitals just issuing a statement from their respective foreign ministries. That's obviously not the right response to what Hamas and allies said was a declaration of war on Palestinians.
The Tibetan parable
The epochal event in the Tibetan's loss of homeland to Communist China was the 1959 invasion and the fleeing of the 14th Dalai Lama to India. However, it was not the first time a Dalai Lama had fled the holy seat of Buddhism. The 13th Dalai Lama had to flee twice at the turn of the last century, forced out by the British and the Chinese.
Each exile was shortlived and the Lama returned to the homeland. The second time the Lama fled was in 1910 but the Chinese Qing dynasty bit dust just two years later, helping him return quicker.
We do not know if the 14th Dalai Lama had young lions in his dreams — just as Santiago in the Old Man and the Sea — when he fled the fatherland. Taking cues from recent history he probably hadn't packed the bags for a long, really long sojourn. But what he realised later was that Mao was quite different from the Qing rulers. For that matter, what are his chances under Xi Jinping?
Perhaps what we witness is the spectacle of Yasser Arafat's dream becoming an Arab illusion first and then a humiliating nightmare.