Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital is Disastrous

If you aren’t aware, the Trump administration plans to officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and are moving their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The United States government is officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump announced this decision in a speech today, December 6th 2017, at 1:00 pm EST. This is an extremely controversial and political decision.

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Here is an extremely abbreviated historical background:

Jerusalem is a sacred city for all of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). The Palestinians (largely Muslim), who were living in Palestine before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, still view Jerusalem as both their political and spiritual capital. Through all of the conflicts between Israel, the Palestinians, and neighboring Arab countries, the international community has not regarded Jerusalem as “belonging” to either Israel or the Palestinian territories. This is due, in part, to its religious significance.  Therefore, this land is essentially still “up for grabs.” Despite this, the general Israeli attitude is that Jerusalem is their capital. Since 1967, Israel has been establishing “illegal” settlements in East Jerusalem. Even so, the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords, established in 1993, dictate that Jerusalem’s status will be decided at a later date. This has allowed Palestinians to keep faith in the fact that they have a chance to regain Jerusalem. Palestinians have made it clear, up until this point, that they will relinquish their stake in Jerusalem.

With Trump’s decision, the US has become the first nation to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This is a choice which significantly sets back any progress towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The fact that a powerful nation such as the US is validating Israel’s claim to the city only further disenfranchises the Palestinians. In his speech, Trump said that this decision did not determine any borders. However, the act of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital gives Israel more liberty in their jurisdiction over the city.

In the past, decisions that were seen as acts of aggression towards the Palestinian cause resulted in violent riots known as “Intifadas.” The First Intifada began in 1987 and ended in 1993. The Second Intifada began in 2000 and ended in 2005. That was 12 years ago; this is recent history. These riots caused thousands of deaths. In addition, terrorist attacks within Israel are extremely common when Palestinians feel threatened. As of 2016, there have been 1,215 terrorist attacks in Israel’s history. There have been 11,580 injuries and 2,558 fatalities from these attacks. Based on historical trends, terrorist attacks and riots in Israel following this decision are almost guaranteed. As of today, there have already been protests in the Gaza territories and escalated IDF (Israeli Defense Force) presence in the occupied territories.  

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) spokesman said, in regards to the decision, “It’s very serious. Things look very bad.” He then went on to call this an “unacceptable action.” Other Middle Eastern leaders have also commented on this decision. Jordan’s King Abdullah said this would, “undermine efforts to resume the peace process.” Both Saudi Arabia and Iran asserted that this decision was an attack on Muslims. If other Middle Eastern countries get involved this could become war.

Eventually, the Jerusalem question would have come to the table during peace talks. However, this decision came too early in the process. This also came from a country that did not have the right to make a choice that has such strong implications in the region. There is a good chance that the US will never directly face the consequences of this action. However, there are likely going to be severe ramifications for the decision in Israel and the whole of the Middle East. This decision seems irresponsible and will probably adversely affect the peace process. In his speech, Trump said that he is advocating for both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, to maintain peaceful relations. However, his careless actions will give rise to extremism and violence in the region.