The Political Implications of US Recognition of Jerusalem
By admin December 13, 2017

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Last week, President Trump announced that the United States now recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy. Trump justify the move as a method to advance the peace process in the Middle East. Immediate reactions included Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lambasting Trump’s announcement, warning that such a decision actually poses insecurity and danger to the region and the world. Jordan’s King Abdullah added that there is no alternative to the two-state solution. Other regional leaders such as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Saudi Arabia’s royal court, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chimed in with similar sentiments of instability in the region.

There is little surprise that this recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel puts the United States at odds with much of the international community. The Palestinians had claimed East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state as designated in the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, although its final status was meant to be determined in the latter stages of the peace talks. Even so, both Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their political capital and a sacred religious site. Although Israel controls the entirety of the city, the city’s status has been disputed since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Most anticipate a peace deal that gives western Jerusalem to Israel and eastern Jerusalem to a future Palestinian state. The United States has long maintained a neutrality by considering Jerusalem’s status as an issue left between Israelis and Palestinians to decide.

Trump’s break with this tradition has major implications. Rather, it stems back to a 1980 law that declared Jerusalem be Israel’s “undivided” capital, which was widely regarded and understood as a de facto annexation its eastern half of the city. Trump’s endorsement does not explicitly endorse this idea, but he did not reject this or state that Jerusalem should also be the Palestinian capital. This further implies that the Trump’s administration is increasingly more supportive of Israel’s position for full annexation, and it potentially jeopardizes any viable peace deal.

For decades, the United States has actually positioned itself as the primary mediator between the conflicting Israelis and Palestinians. US diplomats utilized neutrality as the primary principle, and it enabled the United States to maintain credibility in negotiation between the two sides. However, it is true that much of the perception outside the United States, especially in the Middle East and Europe, consider the US to have been partially biased by promoting Israeli interests. This is perhaps because of the power imbalance between Israelis and Palestinians, where the Israelis wield more power since they occupy the land. In this regard, perhaps Trump’s move is in line with past American strategy, and it tells the story of what reality is. Even so, this has made the United States even more unpopular among the Arabs, and this loss in credibility suggests that the US may also be a loser in this conflict.

Further Reading:

International leaders react to Trump’s Jerusalem move

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, says Donald Trump

Three things to know about Trump’s Jerusalem gambit

The Jerusalem Issue, Explained

‘We are one’: Palestinian Christians and Muslims unite against Trump’s Jerusalem call

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