Photo via Dennis Jarvis
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Donald Trump made headlines around the globe yesterday, after the American president announced that the United States would move to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The world’s most contested piece of real estate, Jerusalem has incredible historic and religious significance for practitioners of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Currently, Israelis and Palestinians both claim the city as their own, with tensions running high as more powerful Israeli forces continue to construct settlements in the largely Palestinian area of East Jerusalem.
To break down exactly what Trump’s decision means for the Holy City, the Middle East at large, and political discourse worldwide, we’ve compiled a series of deep dives from around the web. This is what you need to know about Donald Trump’s intervention in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
In an executive decision that was promised on the campaign trail but caught the world off-guard, President Donald Trump proclaimed yesterday that the U.S. government would now formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump’s actions turn the tables on nearly 70 years of American foreign policy, despite similar promises from past U.S. presidents. Appealing directly to Israel as well as America’s conservative and largely pro-Israel population, Trump sold his declaration as a heel-turn against the failures of his predecessors and “the right thing to do.”
“It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result,” Trump said at Wednesday’s press conference.
In his speech, Trump cited the Jerusalem Embassy Act passed by Congress in 1995 as proof of “bipartisan” legislative support for his action. But in the 22-year interim since that bill was passed, each and every sitting president has taken a more measured approach to the region, signing waivers to continually suspend the embassy move.
While Israel has claimed Jerusalem as their own since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the rest of the world has not acknowledged the Holy City as an Israeli territory, with all current embassies in Israel, including the United States’ office, located in coastal city of Tel Aviv.
Trump’s announcement Wednesday was lauded by American conservatives and by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu as “courageous and just,” but outside of that support, the rest of the world has expressed a united chorus of both rejection and fear, worrying that the formal concession to Israel will only incite violence and destabilize the region further.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s royal court called Trump’s actions “unjustified and irresponsible,” as Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the major policy shift as "throwing the region into a ring of fire.”
Crossing continents into Europe, British Prime Minister Theresa May immediately rebuked Trump’s decision, restating the United Kingdom’s refusal to deem Jerusalem the Israeli capital.
"We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it," Prime Minister May said in a statement following Trump’s televised speech.
Piling on the disapproval, French president Emmanuel Macron called the unpopular step towards a one-state solution “regrettable,” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel released a statement today opposing Trump’s actions.
"We're sticking to the relevant UN resolutions — they make clear that the status of Jerusalem needs to be negotiated as part of negotiations on a two-state solution for Israel and that's why we want this process to be revived," said Merkel.
Even government officials in Russia and China expressed what the BBC described as, “concern that the move could lead to an escalation of tensions in the region.”
So while it’s pretty clear what the rest of the world thinks of Trump’s Israeli handshake, what do the people most affected by the embassy move and official recognition — Palestinians — think about Trump’s decision?
In an opinion piece in the New York Times published this morning, Palestinian legislator, activist, and scholar Hanan Ashrawi writes sternly about the immediate, real-life effects of Trump’s actions for any Israeli-Palestinian peace process, urging the American president to rethink his arguable foreign policy pandering to one of America’s long-time allies.
“This decision will be interpreted by Palestinians, Arabs and the rest of the world as a major provocation,” Ashrawi wrote. “It will cause irreparable harm to Mr. Trump’s own plans to make peace in the Middle East, and to any future administration’s efforts, as well. It will also undermine the United States’ own national security. The president should reconsider this decision immediately.”
“By rewarding its claim on Jerusalem with official recognition, Mr. Trump is giving Israel a free hand to accelerate its policies of creeping annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories and its deliberate attempts to erase the Palestinians’ historical, political, cultural and demographic presence in historic Palestine,” Ashrawi continued.
Turning those same sentiments into on-the-ground political action, leaders from the Islamist group Hamas have called for an uprising against Israeli forces in the face of Trump’s recognition, with clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli military already being reported in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Here’s what many Palestinians think of Trump’s decision to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital. pic.twitter.com/Xe35BZ87wQ— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) December 7, 2017
If Trump is to go through with in moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it will still take an expected three years of bureaucratic maneuvering, but in the meantime, it appears that the American president’s justification for his actions — as “a long overdue step to advance the peace process” — is ringing hollow to most observers.