By: Hamada Al-Kohly
Since US President Donald Trump announced, on the 6th of November, his decision to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, there has been a state of monitoring for the Arab positions, especially the Egyptian stand on Jerusalem issue, as Egypt is the oldest and most influential in the Arab region and has a great history on the Palestinian issue.
However, although the media and political community are monitoring the Arab positions, it must be considered that the Egyptian stand on the Palestinian issue began before recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Egypt did not wait for the official approval by the US Administration, promoting the Egyptian stand to be the strongest against the US decision since its issuance, for the following reasons:
- Despite the distinguished relations between President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi and US President Donald Trump, since US elections, El-Sisi considered the file of the Palestinian issue is a red line that Egypt does not bargain for.
- Egypt rejected a US proposal to revive the peace process based on closing refugees' file and the establishment of a special mechanism for the city of Jerusalem does not correspond to Palestinian interests and the right of Palestinians in the holy city.
- Egypt did not respond to repeated American demands to pressure the Palestinians to accept direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions and without a specific timetable.
- As the world is watching and reading the decisions of President Donald Trump towards moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the United Nations witnessed a speech by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, in which he considered Jerusalem a condition for bringing calm to the region. "The settlement of the Palestinian issue must be based on established international norms and principles, establishing an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, is a necessary precondition for the entire region's transit into a new phase of stability and development," El-Sisi said in his speech at UN General Assembly.
- During the Arab Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh, held in May, and in the presence of US President Donald Trump, the Egyptian president confirmed the Egyptian stand on the Palestinian issue. He pointed out that efforts exerted for fighting and uprooting terrorism could not be successful and be a tangible reality except through settling the Palestinian issue via a just, comprehensive and final solution that is based on the two-state principle and the relevant terms of reference of international legitimacy in a way that creates a new reality for all the peoples of the region where they would enjoy prosperity and peace together with undermining all pretexts used by terrorists to justify their obnoxious crimes.
- Egypt frankly rejects what is being circulated on the details of the so-called "Deal of the Century" aimed at waiving agreed areas by the Palestinians. In return for this renunciation, Palestinians will take lands in Sinai parallel to the borders of Gaza and Sinai, and Egypt should get an equivalent area of Wadi Ferran , south of the Negev desert, from Israel. Although no state has officially declared the so-called deal of the century, Egypt refuses to talk about the idea of leaving its land.
- Before Trump's latest decision on Jerusalem, he contacted with Arab leaders, headed by President El-Sisi. But he was unable to get a response to the decision, but was met with an Egyptian request not to issue this decision for many considerations.
- Following Trump's decision, Egypt had already announced its stand, which was already known, in an official statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The statement was considered by observers a legal document in which Egypt enumerated the legal basis on which Palestinians and Arabs depend on, which states that Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state.
- After this decision, Egypt called for holding an emergency meeting of the Security Council in response to Trump's position, and was co-sponsored by France, Britain, Italy, Sweden, Uruguay, Bolivia and Senegal.
- In his speech at the Security Council, the representative of Egypt stated that Cairo rejected the American decision and any consequences it entails. He stated that such unilateral decisions are contrary to international legitimacy. The statement included Security Council's resolutions regarding Jerusalem and its status as a city under occupation.
- In his speech at the emergency meeting of the Council of the League of Arab States, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry held the international community and the United Nations responsible for their inability to enforce international legitimacy in a case of more than seven decades. His speech aslo included a report on Security Council's resolutions, which clearly condemns all measures aimed at changing the demographic and geographical situation of the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.
- On the 8th of December, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar rejected the meeting with US Vice President Mike Bens during his visit to Egypt. Sheikh Al-Azhar said the decision to transfer the US embassy unfair and unjust about Jerusalem, adding that Al-Azharcan not sit with those who falsify history and take away the rights of peoples and abuse their sanctities.
- on the 9th of December, Pope Tawadros, Pope of Alexandria, also announced his decision to reject US Vice President Mike Bens in response to Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
- Although the stance of both the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar and the Pope of Alexandria can not be considered an official stand of the Egyptian state, but this does not mean that both stances were issued away from the state.
- The stance of the Grand Imam and the Pope understood by the American administration as desired by the Egyptian state, where Al-Azhar and the Church expressed their unity regarding Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.
- On December 12, the foreign media reported the emergency meeting's details, held by the Council of Senior Scholars in Egypt on Jerusalem. The council said in a statement that the decision as arrogant and reckless, will not change the reality that Jerusalem is Arab, Islamic and Palestinian. The council also warned about attempts to normalize relations with the Zionist entity before its withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Al-Azhar announced an international conference will be held in 17-18 January, in cooperation with the Muslim Council of Elders, to drum up condemnation against the US move.
- During his speech at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Istanbul summit, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry delivered a speech on behalf of Egypt's President, in which he announced Egypt's strategy to settle the crisis.
- Shoukry sent clear messages, during the summit, to the American Vice President before his visit to Egypt. These messages included that peace can not be based on the continuation of the historical injustice suffered by the Palestinian people. Egypt rejects dealing with Jerusalem outside the scope of international legitimacy. while the prominent message emphasized that the Egyptian people will not tolerate the current situation of Jerusalem and Palestinians.
- Egypt submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council, demanding the cancellation of any legal effect of the American decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
On the media level, the Egyptian media is the more severe against the American decision and the Israeli violations. The Egyptian media did not resort to host Israeli analysts under the slogan of opinion and dissident opinion. Furthermore, the National Information Authority in Egypt launched a unified broadcast in support of Jerusalem.
Movements of the last two years
Egypt's history on the Palestinian issue is long, but over the last two years, the Egyptian administration has intensified its efforts to push the peace process foreward. In May 2016, President Abd al-Fattah El-Sisi launched, from Assiut Governorate, an initiative to revive peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The initiative was met by a wide international welcome as well as by the Palestinian and Israeli sides.
- Following this announcement, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Ramallah and met President Mahmoud Abbas, delivering a verbal message from President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.
- In June 2016, Shoukry also headed to Tel Aviv, in a surprise visit aimed at pushing the peace process forward.
- In August, Sameh Shoukry met with a senior US delegation headed by Jared Kouchner, the top advisor of the American president, as part of his tour in several countries in the region, to discuss ways to support the peace process and resume negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.
- On October 12, at a historic moment in Cairo, the Palestinian Fatah and Hamas movements signed a national reconciliation agreement and ended the division under Egyptian auspices, in a step that ended the justifications of the international community to avoid its role in pushing the peace process forward.
- In September, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, to discuss developments of peace process.
- President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi held several meetings with the President of the Palestinian Authority, as he puts the Palestinian issue on the top of the agenda of his talks with his counterparts of world leaders.