Back in the headlines: a potential US embassy move to Jerusalem.  On Wednesday, President Trump is expected to issue a statement either declaring that the US will move its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or directly proclaiming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While reports indicate that the president will most likely renew the waiver on moving the embassy, as has been the case with all of his predecessors since the signing of the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, he could elect to make a proclamation that would reverberate throughout the Middle East.

 

  

What’s all the excitement over a potential statement on Jerusalem from President Trump? 

A presidential statement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would constitute a unilateral action that accepts Israel’s claim to the entire city, denying the Palestinians’ historic, cultural, economic, familial and national attachments to the city and their claim to East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. It would all but certainly render any prospective return to negotiations dead in the water. 

What’s the difference between declaring an embassy move and proclaiming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? 

While both moves would grievously insult the national aspirations of the Palestinian people and jeopardize a future peace deal, an embassy move would spell de facto recognition while a proclamation would serve as an open recognition of  Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by a sitting US president, the symbolic weight of which would be even more devastating according to some commentators. 

What is the current status of Jerusalem under international law? 

Since 1949, when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, this exclusive status has not been recognized by any state or official international organization. Israel’s subsequent 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem is perceived as illegal by the international community. In the international view, the status of the city remains unresolved until agreed upon by the parties through negotiations. 

The unwillingness of the world’s nations to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not stem from denial of the Jewish people’s deep historic connection to the city. Rather, it is rooted in the principle that such recognition can only be achieved through an agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples that likewise acknowledges the legitimate connection of Palestinians to the city and recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. 

How would a unilateral statement impact any potential peace process? 

American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would effectively negate Palestinian aspirations to establish a capital in East Jerusalem, thereby prejudging the outcome of peace talks. The US administration would relinquish any claims to serving as an honest broker between the parties, likely derailing a peace process before it could even get started. 

How might the people of Jerusalem – both Israeli and Palestinian – be affected? 

Any move by the White House that denies the Palestinian people’s deep-rooted ties to Jerusalem is likely to inflame tensions in the city, disrupting the delicate balances that enable relative stability here. Rather than taking steps that further destabilize the situation and weaken prospects for peace, all parties must acknowledge it as the present home and future capital of two peoples. 

Ir Amim yearns for the day in which the American flag flies over two embassies in Jerusalem – the American embassy to Israel in West Jerusalem and the American embassy to Palestine in East Jerusalem. The only framework in which this vision will be realized is a comprehensive political agreement resulting in a two-state solution.

 

If these questions have only raised more, that’s why we have a policy paper devoted exclusively to this topic, as well as another exploring the impact of any unilateral plans on Jerusalem, its people, and prospects for peace.  We’ll be digging more into the latest batch (2017) of unilateral plans soon; if you want to get a jumpstart, click here.

  

 

Ir Amim’s monitoring, reporting, and advocacy involve the resources of everyone in our organization. Please make a donation to sustain this invaluable work.

 

 

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