No other government has its embassy in Jerusalem.
By Ian Fisher and Isabel Kershner / the New York Times
January 19, 2017
“Why would a president-elect decide to begin his presidency by playing with the blood of Palestinians and Israelis? Why? For whose sake? . . . This will destroy us as Palestinian moderates. This will bring extremism to the region.”
— Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator
It started, as it has in American presidential races for decades, as a campaign line, one that weary Israelis and Palestinians hear but rarely take seriously: Donald J. Trump promised to move his nation’s embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
But by Thursday, the eve of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, those decades of promises seemed very real — with reverberations far beyond stone and cement.
Mr. Trump himself made perhaps his strongest statement on the issue on Thursday, telling a conservative Israeli news outlet, “You know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”
Palestinians protested around the West Bank on Thursday, and many Israeli Jews wondered if this was a gift that could be politely pushed away. Moving the embassy is not even close to the top of the list of concerns for even right-leaning Israelis who oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Many worry it would only set off new fighting with the Palestinians as well as the rest of the Arab world, a big price tag for a symbolic change that would hardly move the ball on the broader conflict.
“I don’t know what’s in it for Trump,” said Akiva Eldar, a longtime Israeli columnist and co-author of a book on the issue of moving the embassy. Mr. Eldar’s thesis was that this was largely a concern for American politicians, not Israelis or Palestinians — and even within the United States, it was not generally advocated by those with experience on the ground.
“If you talk to serious people, if you ask the secret service, they say don’t do it,” Mr. Eldar noted. “They don’t think it’s worth it. Everything is so fragile right now.”