EDITORIAL: U.S. must fulfill its responsibility to ease tensions in the Middle East

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - There is no perceivable strategy in the United States’ lopsided support of Israel and its excessively confrontational stance toward Iran. It is problematic that the Middle East policy adopted by U.S. President Donald Trump is increasing regional tensions.

 The U.S. administration relocated its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which Washington has recognized as the capital of Israel. Fierce protests against the U.S. Embassy move have taken place in such places as Gaza, a self-governing Palestinian area, and Israeli forces have opened fire, leaving many people dead or wounded.

 At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, the majority opinion criticized the shootings. The United States countered by saying that Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist organization that effectively controls Gaza, has been inciting protesters to escalate their demonstrations. The chain reaction of violence should first be stemmed.

 Israel claims Jerusalem as its eternal capital and an inseparable part of the country. The Palestinian Authority has positioned East Jerusalem as the capital of its future state. It had been recognized that possession of Jerusalem should be decided on, in principle, during peace negotiations toward a two-state solution.

 Trump has also indicated his eagerness to present a new Middle East peace plan. As long as he wants to act as a mediator, he should have made efforts to create an environment for dialogue, for example by urging Israel to suspend Jewish settlement activity in East Jerusalem, rather than unconditionally supporting the Israeli standpoint.

Japan should call for calm

 The Palestinian Authority has openly shown its distrust of Trump. It can be said that there is no hope for resumption of the peace talks, which have been suspended since 2014.

 There is no doubt that Trump forced the relocation of the U.S. Embassy because he wants to appeal to his pro-Israel supporters. He seemed to prioritize fulfilling the promise he made during the presidential campaign, bearing in mind the midterm elections in November and the 2020 presidential race.

 Japan, which supports a two-state solution, did not attend the inauguration ceremony for the new embassy, distancing itself from the U.S. move. To prevent the situation in the Middle East from deteriorating further, Japan should assume such roles as calling on countries concerned to respond in a level-headed manner.

 There are worries of a situation in which the hostility between Israel and Iran escalates, evolving into a large-scale military clash.

 Israel announced on May 10 that it had launched airstrikes on Iranian military facilities in Syrian territory. They said the airstrikes were made in retaliation for Iranian attacks on military positions in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. With the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, it is certain that Israel’s hard-line stance will be strengthened.

 Nor are there any signs of an end to the civil war in Yemen, which has come to be like a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

 It is certain that Iran’s increased clout will pose a threat to its neighboring countries, but these conflicts cannot be settled with military measures alone. Trump has a responsibility to ease tension through diplomatic efforts.

 (From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 17, 2018)

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