Why Move The U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
President Trump’s reported decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel with the intent of moving the U.S. embassy there as soon as it is feasible for the embassy staff and security operations to be operational, challenges credulity. There is little question that Israel is absolutely correct that it alone should determine its capital city. Jerusalem’s place in Jewish history is undeniable to most scholars. Most diplomats recognize that by all rights Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish State although most also understand that the Palestinians need to have some type of sovereignty there as well.
The President’s announcement to proceed with this move now is a symbolic, political gesture finding favor in the eyes of the Netanyahu Government and many Jews in the United States and throughout the world. Simultaneously, it represents a potentially explosive gesture which could produce significant civilian as well as military casualties.
This move will have no positive impact on the stagnant peace process. The entire Arab world will be hostile; America’s European allies are unsupportive; and a third prolonged intifada could follow the Palestinian predicted “days of terror”. U.S. efforts to proceed with a new round of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will be indefinitely postponed. Only Netanyahu’s right wing Government will be pleased together with its supporters in the Diaspora.
Trump’s decision to proceed with this action can only be understood as another move by a President who acts strictly out of impulse, without any clear organized policy design. As he does on domestic issues, Trump is just “playing” President. He knew nothing about the healthcare bills, did not comprehend the intricacies of the tax bill, and does not comprehend the implications of his saber rattling with Kim Jong-un.
There are many in Washington, in global think tanks, and in academic institutions who have spent years studying how to best achieve regional peace in the Middle East. There are numerous proposals and suggestions of all persuasions. None of them—except right-wing political and religious enthusiasts—believe that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is beneficial. For economic as well as geopolitical reasons the potential downside could be very serious.
The Arab world does not like the decision and the West opposes it. Evangelical Christians together with the Jewish religious right may support it for their respective theological reasons; but this does not help bring the adversaries closer to a peace settlement.
Trump may enjoy the drama and excitement but with this decision he probably is guaranteeing that he will be responsible for the loss of human lives as a result. One should question why these religious zealots have such casual attitudes towards human life. It might have been more plausible for them to recognize the consequences of this decision. This should have given them reason enough to oppose it.