“This is nothing more or less than a recognition of the reality,” U.S. President Donald Trump said nonchalantly at a press conference at the White House last week.
“Jerusalem is a city inhabited by the Jews for centuries, and it is the seat of one of the world’s most successful democracies.”
And with this, President Trump invoked the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 and announced the shifting of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – formally recognizing the city as the undivided capital of the State of Israel. European and Arab world leaders alike, including Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Pope, said that he was recklessly challenging a delicate status quo over the city, in which the international community has insisted its future must be determined in direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians themselves. Soon, reports emerged that both the State Department and the Department of Defense had strongly advised against the decision.
First of all, we need to understand that according to the Trump administration, the shifting of the US Embassy to Jerusalem does not signify that the U.S. recognizes Israeli claims over the city. Trump assured that his government remains firmly committed to the “Two-State solution” – which legitimises Palestinian claims for a separate state. But ironically in his speech, Trump did not name Palestine even once and instead talked about Israel and “the Palestinians” – in short throwing the Palestinians struggle for a homeland out of the window.
But amidst all this noise, we are forgetting to address a critical question. Why exactly did Donald Trump take such a drastic step? What motivated Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, when this issue wasn’t even on the radar of most of the American populace? And above all, what will be the consequences of this decision? To answer these questions, we need to take a deep dive into history.
In 1947, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution supporting the partition of Palestine – providing a separate homeland for the Jews in Israel. Significantly, the resolution did not grant the city of Jerusalem itself to Israel – instead, it provided for an international administration governing the city. However, in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, Israel captured about 80% of Jerusalem – now known as West Jerusalem – with Jordan capturing the rest. As territory gained by conquest is not recognized by International Law, no country accepted Israel’s claims on Jerusalem. Then in the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel managed to annex the rest of Palestine – directly in contravention of the Geneva Convention – and proclaimed Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided capital of Israel. The United Nations Security Council immediately declared the proclamation null and void, passing Resolution 478.
Since then, the international community has recognized Jerusalem as a disputed territory, whose final fate is to be determined by bilateral talks. Until the year 1995 that is, when the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act. According to the Act, the U.S. President is bound to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, unless it presents a national security concern. And all Presidents, from Clinton to Bush to Obama had refused to implement the act based on the unanimous global opinion that the move will greatly diminish America’s role as a neutral broker of peace in the region.
This is where Donald Trump comes in. Trump won the U.S. Presidency primarily with the support of the disgruntled white Christian Americans, who felt that the Democratic Obama administration was snubbing them for being too conservative. According to many Christians, the Bible has given the responsibility of keeping peace in the Holy city of Jerusalem to the followers of Christianity. Thus Trump’s decision is not to further US Foreign Policy interests; rather it is to appease his traditional voter-base before the Mid-term elections in 2018. Additionally, Jews contribute to over 60% of the Republican Party’s total funding. Don’t you see a connection here?
Interestingly, the move comes at a time when Trump’s self-claimed negotiating skills have failed to provide fruitful returns on numerous fronts. On the foreign policy front, the US has failed to respond effectively to North Korean provocations, which has been able to develop an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile capable of reaching the continental United States. Repeated efforts by Trump to pressurize China into ending support for the Kim regime have not been successful. Domestically, the Administration is under unprecedented scrutiny for reports that it actively took Russia’s help to win the election of 2016. Under such circumstances, and with the mid-term elections approaching, what can Trump do but to divert the attention of the electorate from other pressing issues?
Unfortunately, these short-term diversionary and populist tactics will do irreparable harm to the United States’ international reputation. Already, the US is viewed as a diminishing global power, and this, almost obtuse, decision solidifies that perception. Even America’s traditional allies in the NATO have refused to back Trump on Jerusalem. The President needs to put aside his ego and domestic interests to realize that the consequences of his decisions will more often than not outlast his term in office – and many of them will come back to haunt his successors and fellow Americans.
Note:- All the opinions stated in the above article are the author’s own.