What’s the Capital of Israel?
What appears to be a simple geography question for an 8th grader is proving to cause much turmoil in the White House this holiday season. As of December 6th, Trump announced that he will be relocating the United States Embassy, which is currently based in Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem, thereby acknowledging the Holy City as Israel’s capital. Not only does this bold act by the President fulfill another campaign promise but the statement is a stark change in the past years of US foreign policy measures and international policy. The US will be the first nation in the world to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
So, is Jerusalem the capital of Israel? Yes. Don’t believe me? Ask Congress. In 1995 a bipartisan piece of legislation called the Jerusalem Embassy Act was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate in a 93-5 vote and in the House of Representative by 374-37. This mandate agreed that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and required the US Government to move its embassy. However, since then, each President has signed a waiver ignoring this piece of legislation due to fear that moving the US Embassy will stir up more tension amidst the Israel-Palestine conflict and give way to more violence.
The heart of this upheaval, is not a matter of logistical necessity for the US government, rather the process of peacemaking between the Israeli and Palestinian state. For greater clarity, let’s look at a brief historical background. In 1929, a violent conflict began between the Arabs and Jews while Israel was still under British rule. In 1948, when United Nations proposed to partition the land to create peace, Arabs blockaded roads to prevent Jews reaching Jerusalem. After much bloodshed, the Israelis prevailed, yet East Jerusalem remained under Arab control. The end result was the city of Jerusalem divided. In 1967, after the Six-Day War, Israel succeeded in capturing East Jerusalem and re-established the cities borders. Despite this, the East sections of the Holy City still experience heavy Palestine authoritative influence. In addition, Israel's new distinguished territory was never internationally recognized.
President Trump has clarified that, “We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders.” Regardless, this groundbreaking decision sends one message: acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel's capital affirms Israeli sovereignty. This directly clashes with a Palestinian claim that Jerusalem will be their capital of their future Palestine State.
So, is Trump making the right move? While this decision does put Israel and the US at risk of backlash from Palestine and other extremists, the US is taking a stance as a world leader. It is putting into action legislation that should have been active decades ago and making a statement that will hopefully lead to more peace deals.