Monday night, the Trump Administration let the waiver that blocks the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital expire, signaling a massive change in U.S. foreign policy.
In 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which respects Israel’s ability to choose their capital. However, every President since 1995 has refused to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But the Trump Administration intends to.
The potential move is of great controversy and has been met with significant opposition throughout the Middle East, including the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and President Erdogan of Turkey. Furthermore, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation warned that all 57 member states would remove ties with any nation that opted to move their embassy to Jerusalem.
Here’s the catch.
These nations have never truly recognized Israel’s right to exist in the first place. In 1947, the United Nations Partition Plan recognized Jerusalem as an international zone. But following an immediate invasion by several Arab nations including Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, Jerusalem was divided in an armistice border, with Israel controlling the West and Jordan controlling the East.
This all changed, however, after the Six Day War in 1967, which resulted in the defensive occupation of East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank. Critics of Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank, seem to forget that not only was the territory captured in a purely defensive war, but they also have no legal obligation whatsoever to return the West Bank to Jordan. Under international law, as long as terrorist attacks persist against the “occupying” nation, that nation does not have to make any reparations until the conflict ceases. Alan Dershowitz, the famous Harvard Law professor, explains in the PragerU video found below, that the main problem does not rest in Israel’s presence in the West Bank, but rather the refusal by Arab nations to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
This is not to suggest, however, that the move of the embassy to Jerusalem will not proliferate any tensions, but rather expose the already existing ones. These tensions exist because of an unfortunate reality: Israel’s neighbors refuse to accept the nation’s claim to their rightful, historical land.
So do not believe that the sole reason peace is out of the question is because of the embassy move. The transition will serve as an excuse to justify the annihilation of the Jewish state altogether, similar to how the settlements of the West Bank serve as an excuse.
For this reason, the transition must be handled with caution. Other U.S. stations in the region risk violent protests, as well as Israel itself. There is a genuine concern to have about the safety of both Israelis and Americans in the area.
Nonetheless, Israel is the only functional democracy in the region, the only country to guarantee rights to its minority citizens, and perhaps, serves as the United States’ closest, most reliable ally. In 1980, Israel passed a law declaring Jerusalem as its capital, and it would seem that as Israel’s best ally in the West, the United States should respect Israel’s right to choose their own capital.
The Trump Administration’s intention to move the embassy to Jerusalem reflects the American commitment to Israel’s sovereignty and right to exist. The danger resides in the response of the surrounding nations, and whether or not they will decide to take action. Either way, the ball is in their court. Whether or not violence will erupt depends on the response from the neighboring nations.