On December 6, 2017, President Donald Trump formally recognized the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump also announced that the American embassy in Israel will be moving from Tel Aviv to the Holy City. This is a big change in our foreign policy because virtually every other country, along with the US until now, has refused to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital since the country’s founding in 1948.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the major issue surrounding the move. Both groups claim ownership over Israeli land and Jerusalem is a central location in the disagreement. When Trump declared Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, he essentially announced to the world that Jerusalem belongs under Israeli control. This has angered the Palestinians and has the potential to aggravate the conflict between the groups. This is a dangerous prospect, given the importance of having the area stable for global trade. World leaders have already voiced their concerns about this decision, such as President Macron of France and Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat. Even Pope Francis talked about how worried he was for the region because of this decision. The United Nations General Assembly released a “...non-binding resolution...with 128 votes in favour and nine against, while 35 countries abstained,” to determine Trump’s decision as “null and void.”
Trump’s move makes sense in theory: try something new instead of the same old routines to the same old problems. Trump has also claimed to be working on an agreement “that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.” Unfortunately, moving the U.S. embassy does not seem like it will help bring the two groups toward reconciliation. The Palestinians don’t see the move as protecting their interests in the area.
My hope is that diplomacy reigns supreme with such a complicated issue. Jerusalem is considered sacred to the three largest religions in the world and includes many holy sites for Jews and Muslims alike. This religious aspect means that tensions can rise very quickly, because people are very protective of their religious beliefs. Left unchecked, that could lead to violence and would spell disaster in what is already a sensitive location. And with the three big religion’s focal points right there, any kind of tremor or problem that occurs could very easily spread around the world.
It’s important that in the discussions to follow, both the Israeli side and Palestinian side are heard and acknowledged.
Wesley Rodriguez-Diep is a sophomore studying international relations.