Donald Trump is expected to announce today that the US embassy will be moved at some stage from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and that the US of A recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
From the New York Times:
President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American Embassy there, upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Mr. Trump’s decision, a high-risk foray into the thicket of the Middle East, was driven not by diplomatic calculations but by a campaign promise. He appealed to evangelicals and ardently pro-Israel American Jews in 2016 by vowing to move the embassy, and advisers said on Tuesday he was determined to make good on his word.
But the president, faced with a deadline of this past Monday to make that decision, still plans to sign a national security waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months, even as he set in motion a plan to move it to Jerusalem. Officials said the process would take several years.
More significantly, Mr. Trump is to announce his formal recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in a formal speech at the White House on Wednesday, when he will become the first American president to take that step since the founding of Israel in 1948.
Mr. Trump spent Tuesday morning explaining the policy change in telephone calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel; Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president; and to Arab leaders who warned him that it would disrupt the peace process, perhaps fatally, and could unleash a new wave of violence across the region.
The move is entirely symbolic. As far as I understand it there is no problem with the existing embassy. At a diplomatic level the decision is bonkers. Jerusalem is considered by both Jews and Arabs to be hugely important to their cultures and their religions.
To understand the intensity of the feelings surrounding the city Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian provides this description of the proposal:
Not content with taking the US to the brink of nuclear conflict with North Korea, Donald Trump is now set to apply his strategy of international vandalism to perhaps the most sensitive geopolitical hotspot in the world. With a speech scheduled for later today that’s expected to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and reaffirm a pledge to move the US embassy to the city, he is walking into a bone-dry forest with a naked flame.
For the status of Jerusalem is the most intractable issue in what is often described as the world’s most intractable conflict. It is the issue that has foiled multiple efforts at peacemaking over several decades. Both Israelis and Palestinians insist that Jerusalem must be the capital of their states, present and future, and that that status is non-negotiable.
But it’s not just important to them. The Old City of Jerusalem contains the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest mosque in Islam, to say nothing of its enormous significance to Christians, meaning that even the slightest move there is felt by billions. It is a place where diplomats have learned to tread with extreme care. There is a reason why no US administration, no matter how pro-Israel, has changed its policy toward the city in the nearly 70 years since Israel’s founding.
But here comes Trump, oblivious to precedent and indeed history – even in a place where history is a matter of life and death – stomping through this delicate thicket, trampling over every sensitivity. The risk is obvious, with every Arab government – including those loyal to Washington – now issuing sharp warnings on the perils of this move, almost all of them using the same word: “dangerous”.
Let us be clear. Most advocates of an eventual two-state solution believe the only way to resolve the Jerusalem issue is for it to serve as the capital of both states: East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Then, and only then, would be the right moment to start moving embassies and issuing statements of recognition. Until that day, any act that pre-empts an agreement between the two parties on the city’s future is reckless and needlessly incendiary.
And to give some historical context, East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel during the 1967 war. Palestine has always refused to accept the validity of the annexation. There is a deep sensitivity that only the most insensitive and stupid would breach.
And of course there are other problems. The forcible settlement of over 500,000 Israelis in Palestinian land is not something that can be resolved easily. And it appears that Israel takes the chance to attack Palestinian society every chance it gets. Even EU sponsored Palestinian schools are not exempt. From CNN in August this year:
According to the [Norwegian Refugee Council], three educational facilities for Palestinian children in the West Bank have been demolished or damaged by Israeli authorities in the past two weeks.
A kindergarten for the Bedouin community of Jabal Al Baba was torn down, and a primary school in Abu Nuwar had its solar panels — the only source of power at the school — dismantled and taken away, the NRC says.
The body that looks after civil administration in those parts of the West Bank still totally controlled by Israel — designated as Area C — is known here by its acronym, COGAT; it stands for Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
COGAT says all the demolished structures were illegal and that the demolitions were carried out lawfully.
In a statement to CNN, COGAT said: “The building in Jub El-Thib was built illegally last weekend, a blatant violation of ‘stop work’ orders, and without receiving the required permits. Therefore, the confiscation was carried out in accordance with the Civil Administration authorities.”
The European Union says about 100 structures — homes, shelters, water networks, as well as schools — in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, for which the EU or EU member states have provided funding, have been demolished or seized over the past year.
New building projects in the West Bank’s Area C require a permit from Israeli authorities.
But the NRC says the majority of planning requests are denied; the NRC says that leaves international donors and Palestinians alike with no choice but to build anyway.
So what does Trump do? Completely disregards Palestinian views and ambitions and instead side with Israel. With this approach there will never be peace, just a winner state and a loser state. And resentment amongst all of the Arab world not to mention amongst local Palestinians. The phrase “Bull in a China shop” has never appeared to be more appropriate.
Not that there was much chance of peace breaking out. But once the US Embassy is established in Jerusalem there will be one other problem standing in the way of an increasingly difficult path to peace.
And why now? Maybe news that special prosecutor Robert Mueller has requested data from Deutsche Bank relating to Trump’s banking records is the motivator. Deutsche Bank was penalised earlier this year for laundering Russian money.