Donald Trump is making good on a campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move which might please his base but is almost sure to exacerbate long-held tensions in the Middle East. The pro-Israel shift means not only the logistical hurdles of moving a whole embassy and its staff, but it also sends a strong signal to the Middle East about where his administration’s loyalties lie.
Much of the Arab world refuses to recognize Israel’s sovereignty when it comes to Jerusalem, which is of deep religious and political significance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, a position the U.S. has delicately managed by hosting its embassy in Tel Aviv. By moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the U.S. is signaling a favoritism for Israel over the Palestinian movement which has continued to hold out hope that Jerusalem, or at least part of it, can one day be the capital of its own nation. A Palestinian spokesperson described Trump’s announcement to the New York Times as “very serious” and said that “things look very bad.”
Many of the United States’ Arab allies back that Palestinian position. Jordan, for example, released a statement on the shift, noting that “King Abdullah stressed that the adoption of this resolution will have serious implications for security and stability in the Middle East, and will undermine the efforts of the American administration to resume the peace process and fuel the feelings of Muslims and Christians.”
The timing of Trump’s decision is an interesting one, given the relative success he had on his Middle Eastern tour this summer, during which he managed to broker some lucrative arms deals. Ironically, the move also comes at a time when Trump’s base has greater ambivalence than ever towards Israel. However, older evangelicals still tend to share Trump’s view.
It will still be some time, however, before the transition is finalized. Trump has already delayed the decision once and has set this official timeline to take place over the next six months. Moving a whole embassy is no easy task, especially under such contentious circumstances. No doubt the news will kick off tensions though that could have far reaching consequences before the last file cabinet is in place at the new diplomatic headquarters.
(Via New York Times)