— CNN (@CNN) December 6, 2017
President Trump has officially announced that the U.S. embassy will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a major departure from decades of foreign policy and a move that has experts worried this will throw off the delicate balance of peace in the Middle East. Trump, however, explained in his speech that it is the tenuous nature of Middle Eastern politics that motivated him to fulfill this campaign promise. He also suggested that by carefully refusing to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, past administrations have exacerbated the difficulty of peace talks between the Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs:
“It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result. Therefore I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering. I have judged this course of action to be in the best interest of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and work towards a lasting agreement.”
The presidents who Trump references are Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who each had slightly different reasons for thinking a shift to Jerusalem would be the solution. Neither fulfilled on their campaign promise to make the move, though. President Obama also promised a swift and aggressive approach to brokering peace between Israel and Palestine but focused on settlements rather than the broader issue of sovereignty over the Holy City. That tactic quickly stalled out, demonstrating just how hard it can be to read a room full of Israelis and Palestinians.
It’s not surprising that Trump hopes he can prevail in peace talks, given his personal brand as a broker of deals and the generally warm visit he had on his first Middle Eastern tour. However, previous presidents with greater foreign policy expertise who have announced a new route forward have stubbed their toes against the stoney wall of Israel and Palestine’s differences. Ultimately, it will be up to the countries competing over Jerusalem whether Trump’s timing is right or another foreign policy fail.
Watch Trump’s full speech below.