President Trump announced Tuesday that he will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there as soon as possible.
Several mainstream media outlets reported that the move will inflame the region and scuttle promising peace negotiations.
“U.S. endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would reverse long-standing U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state,” wrote Matt Spetainick and Maayan Lubell at HuffPo. “The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.”
The president informed a variety of other world leaders, HuffPost reported, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. Those leaders “joined a mounting chorus of voices warning that unilateral U.S. steps on Jerusalem would derail a fledgling U.S.-led peace effort and unleash turmoil in the region.”
Abbas warned Trump the decision could derail the Middle East peace process, and, according to the New York Times, called for three days of “popular anger” to protest the move. European leaders “have begun lining up against the move,” according to a story in USA Today.
“For 50 years, Democratic and Republican presidents alike have chosen not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in order to remain impartial,” a letter from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) said. “If you break with this long tradition of bipartisan foreign policy, you’ll erode American credibility as an unbiased mediator, alienate us from our international partners, such as Jordan, and undermine any remaining hope for a two-state solution.”
Slate’s headline said “Trump’s Jerusalem Decision Has No Upside,” then goes on to explain the measure helps no one but defense contractors.
Government officials are concerned about possible violence in response to the announcement, but as Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, points out, that is far from certain.
“We’ll see what we end up with,” Goldenberg said. “It could be nothing. It could be a day of protests and things calm down. Or it could be a hugely inflammatory situation that spirals out of control, putting American diplomats and others at risk, and generate a lot of violence. This is why no president has wanted to actually do this. There is only downside. There is no upside other than Trump’s domestic political constraints.”
The peace process is kaput as well, Goldenberg told Slate. “There is no way he can do that politically,” Goldenberg said. “He can’t be seen with Trump right now. He basically just dropped a grenade into Abbas’ domestic politics. The notion that now they can accept a peace proposal … that is off the table for quite a while.”
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, has been leading a new effort to get Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their differences, but all agree little if any progress has been made. Kushner, who asked the president to hold off on this move six months ago, announced he supports the move.
In the fine print of all these articles – after the part about how this will end hopes for the peace process, enflame Muslims who also consider Jerusalem to be a holy place and how it amounted to nothing more than Trump keeping a promise to his low-information evangelical supporters – were some facts that shed light on Trump’s reasoning.
They had to admit there is no viable peace process for the move to undermine, that the big picture impact on U.S. diplomacy would be small and the condemnation of other world leaders meant relatively little.
“Bibi Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas are not going to do a deal,” Slate’s Isaac Chotiner wrote. “You can try all you want to try, and you can be very serious about it. But these two guys are not going to cut a deal with each other.”