Last Tuesday Trump took the somewhat bold, courageous and spontaneous decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel to the ‘eternal and undivided capital’ of the Jewish State, Jerusalem. Such a move has been frequently debated in American politics — in 1995 Congress passed a law officially recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and nearly every US president, including Obama, held this view. Trump is therefore acting to materialise not only his own campaign pledge, but also that of longstanding American policy. However, is such an action justified? What does it mean for the prospect of peace? And: What ramifications will it have throughout the world?


 

Firstly, it is imperative to note that all sovereign countries have the right to choose their capital city. Why is it that in Israel’s case the international community fail to recognise this respected norm, particularly when Jerusalem as the capital makes as much or more sense than any other country’s capital?

Jerusalem is the seat of the Israeli Parliament, the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister and President’s Residences, and the site of much diplomatic interaction and debate. In addition, the deep, ever-preserved three-thousand-year Jewish connection to the City of Gold means Jerusalem as the capital makes perfect historic sense (this is of course not to overlook the importance of Jerusalem to both Christianity and Islam). This intimate relationship is exemplified through the mentioning of Jerusalem 660 times in the Old Testament (146 times in the New Testament; not once in the Koran) and epitomised through many historic sites in the Old City, such as, to name but two, the Western Wall and the City of David archaeological site. Jerusalem is fundamental and integral to the Jewish State, and stands at the heart of the nation of Israel. In this sense, to support the move of the embassy of Israel’s democratic ally to the true capital,  is entirely logical.

The Palestinians base much of their negotiations on the principle that they should have East Jerusalem as their capital — however, in the current political climate this is very unlikely to happen. Critics claim such a move will eradicate the prospect of peace and state that it makes neither political nor diplomatic sense. However, this prospect of peace is virtually non-existent, and has been for a very a long time. Trump’s decision seemed to awaken the optimist in politicians and political commentators, as if a peace deal had been imminently pending and Trump had ripped it from their grasp. Yet, in reality, peace negotiations are stagnant and the deadlock shows no signs of being resolved. Trump’s decision therefore is arguably politically useful in advancing peace: it gives a new outlook and shows the Palestinians that Jerusalem is off the table in negotiations. This means that future negotiations will not be based on the fruitless premise that the Palestinians can have East Jerusalem as their capital.

Now, this might sound like a harsh, unreasonable reality. However, what makes this a justifiable decision is the fact that Israel is a true democracy and will continue to enshrine the right of free worship for all religions at Jerusalem’s Holy sites, as it does at present. In addition, what makes the premise deluded is the fact that if the hate-fuelled Palestinian leadership were to control East Jerusalem they would ensure Israelis have no future access to their religious sites — and what kind of peace deal would that be?

This is the shocking reality that is often overlooked when inspecting the conflict: Mahmoud Abbas would ‘not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands’. This is in contrast to the 1.5 million Arabs who live and vote in the Jewish State. It’s interesting to note that fifty per cent of the Palestinians in Jerusalem have stated that they prefer Israeli citizenship to Palestinian citizenship. Thus, by ensuring Jerusalem is off the table in any future peace negotiations, the embassy move perhaps strengthens, but certainly doesn’t diminish, the likelihood of a peace treaty.

A more real and dangerous threat from this move comes from the increased tension, violence and bloodshed that it is likely to cause in the aftermath. However, I would like to make the point that terrorists should not be able to veto a democratic country’s decisions, particularly a democratic country’s acknowledgement of reality. The sad truth is that the Palestinian leadership will look for any excuse to incite and incentivise violence towards Israel, but this threat should not influence America’s actions. Through these threats of hatred, of extremism, of violence, Israel will continue to act not only as a beacon of democracy amidst a haven of enmity, but also as a strong country that will continue to protect itself against threats of extermination.

On the whole, Trump’s embassy move is justified in a range of ways. Essentially, in its simplest form this move could be seen as a recognition of reality. The Jewish people’s intimate bond with Jerusalem has endured through millennia and fundamentally stands at the heart of the Jewish State, therefore Jerusalem rightly deserves official recognition as the capital.

One can only hope now that the aftermath  of such a move will be as harmonious as possible, and that both sides can eventually look to the future for peace. So, for once, President Trump – I support you.