Today, President Trump gave a speech in which he announced that his administration is officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and beginning preparations to move the US embassy there.
It’s a reckless decision that brings with it no tangible benefits — and many serious risks.
Why, you may ask, is this decision so important? Why are so many experts and foreign leaders worried about what it could mean for peace and stability in Jerusalem and throughout the region?
Because for decades, American presidents of both parties have made clear that while parts of Jerusalem will eventually be internationally recognized as the capital of Israel, the final status of the entirety of Jerusalem has to be decided by a negotiated peace agreement. They’ve avoided any step that could be seen to prejudge the outcome — like recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, or moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Let’s be clear — J Street believes that Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem, where the Jewish people have ancient ties and an incredibly deep spiritual connection. And we know that the only way to secure international recognition of this capital, and lasting peace for the city and for Israel as a whole, is via a two-state solution that also makes East Jerusalem the capital of an independent Palestinian state.
Today’s announcement only moves us farther away from that goal. Security officials and diplomats from the US and Israel have warned that it could lead to violence, not only in Jerusalem but in Arab and Muslim states across the region — and potentially against US diplomats and servicepeople. Indeed, the State Department has already warned US embassies around the world to heighten security in the wake of the announcement.
Already, the move is meeting with outrage and condemnation from the Palestinians and from key Arab allies like Jordan and Saudi Arabia — precisely the allies whose support and engagement is needed to advance negotiations and achieve the administration’s stated goal of achieving comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Arab leaders are portraying the move as an alarming sign that the US is not truly serious about leading good-faith diplomatic efforts towards Israeli-Palestinian peace — and warning that it could inflame tensions throughout the Muslim world.
Simply put: There’s no good reason to take this destabilizing decision right now, at a time when the administration claims it is focusing on launching a major new peace initiative. Like so much of what the president says and does, it seems designed purely to cater to his hard-right base among Christian evangelicals and a small minority of American Jews. In fact, he explicitly made clear that this decision was intended to deliver on a campaign promise.
While some of the president’s defenders may portray this move as a “pro-Israel” step, the vast majority of American Jews do not support it. The Reform Movement, the largest Jewish movement in North America, has spoken out against it. A September 2017 AJC poll found that 80 percent of American Jews believe that the embassy should either not be moved, or should be moved only in conjunction with progress towards Israeli-Palestinian peace. And polling released by the Brookings Foundation just last week found that 31 percent of Americans back such a step.
This decision by the president is just the latest example of this administration’s provocative and incoherent foreign policy undermining our credibility, imperiling our security and alienating our allies. J Street has been and continues to be an important force pushing back against decisions like these — and the extreme, influential groups and individual voices who promote them.
As we hope and pray that this move does not lead to further violence and suffering, we’re standing up for the kind of effective diplomacy and pragmatic policy that can actually secure Israel’s future and make the region safer. We’re working towards sweeping political change in 2018, to empower a rising generation of pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy lawmakers to serve as a powerful bulwark against the worst inclinations of the Trump administration.
Today is a day for worry and frustration — but also for resolve and renewed commitment.
With your continued support, we can help bring about a different kind of American leadership.
We can help bring about a better future for Israelis, for Palestinians and for Jerusalem.
Here are a few links to help you make sense of this decision and why it’s so significant.
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