It’s fair to ask how much worse things could get on the Palestinian street. Still, the Israelis have a lot to lose behind the scenes. Part of this is because of the rise of Iran. Israel and Saudi Arabia, who were bitter enemies for the first half-century of the Jewish State’s existence, today are quiet partners in trying to check Iran’s rise. The same is true with the United Arab Emirates. With Egypt and Jordan, Israel has peace treaties, which explicitly state that the status of Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations.
For the last eight years the American president has approached the Jewish state the way a do-gooder deals with an alcoholic friend. You know the pose: Because we care so much about your long-term survival, we want to help you end your addiction to apartment construction in East Jerusalem.
To put it mildly, Donald Trump has a different perspective. It’s not just that he has nominated his bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, an enthusiast of greater Israel, to be his ambassador there. Nor is it the elimination of language about a “two-state solution” in the Republican Party’s platform for 2016. It’s that the incoming president’s administration is promising to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem after the election.
It’s been the other way since the 1980’s. Usually presidents promise to move the embassy in the campaign and break that promise while in office. Trump looks like he is going to keep his word. As Friedman said in a statement last week, he looks forward to conducting his official diplomatic business “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
“With all that Jerusalem connotes, it is, to say the least, unbecoming for the United States’ future embassy in that city to be built on land that is stolen property.”
Kellyanne Conway, President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign manager, has stated that relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a “a big priority” for the incoming administration. She added, “It is something that our friend in Israel, a great friend in the Middle East, would appreciate and something that a lot of Jewish-Americans have expressed their preference for.”
Meanwhile, in a passage that has since been removed from the online article, the Times of Israel has reported that the Trump transition team “has begun exploring the logistics of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, and checking into sites for its intended new location,” adding that the site being considered was formerly the location of the Allenby Barracks, the site of the British army’s Jerusalem garrison during the Mandate.
“Even though the peace process is, I think, comatose and is unlikely to advance in the near term, why overload the circuits and potentially take a step that could permanently undermine the prospects of a two-state solution? You’re simply going to feed Iranian propaganda, you’re going to feed Sunni-jihadi propaganda and most likely, you’re going to trigger a fair amount of violence and even terror.” — Aaron David Miller, The Woodrow Wilson Center
Moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may have been one of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises, but experts and Palestinian officials are warning of serious consequences if he follows through.
“We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem — and we will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel,” Mr. Trump said in a speech to the powerful Jewish lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March.
Last week, in an indication of Mr. Trump’s seriousness, he announced that he would nominate bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman to serve as ambassador to Israel. Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, made clear in a statement that he looks forward to doing the job from “the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
Daniel Kurtzer, U.S. ambassador to Israel under President George W. Bush, called Friedman’s nomination a “serious mistake” in an op-ed in The New York Times over the weekend.
In an interview with Israeli left-leaning newspaper Haaretz, in June, Friedman was asked whether Trump would support the creation of an independent Palestinian state — a bedrock of U.S. foreign policy which supports a two-state solution. “The answer is: not without the approval of the Israelis. . . . He does not think it is an American imperative for it to be an independent Palestinian state.”
President-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday he will nominate bankruptcy attorney David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel, and Friedman said he looked forward to taking up his post in Jerusalem, implying a move from Tel Aviv that would mark a break in longstanding U.S. foreign policy and anger the Muslim world.
While campaigning for the presidency, Trump pledged to switch the embassy from Tel Aviv, where it has been located for 68 years, to Jerusalem, all but enshrining the city as Israel’s capital regardless of international objections.
“[Friedman] has been a long-time friend and trusted advisor to me. His strong relationships in Israel will form the foundation of his diplomatic mission and be a tremendous asset to our country as we strengthen the ties with our allies and strive for peace in the Middle East,” Trump said in a statement issued by his team on Thursday.
The Republican made clear during his campaign that he would support Israel in a number of critical areas, said he would not put pressure on Israel to engage in talks with the Palestinians.
“Every president who reversed his campaign promise did so because he decided not to take the risk. . . . Jerusalem has historically been an issue that provoked great passions — often as a result of false claims — that did trigger violence.”
America’s top diplomat in Jerusalem lives in an elegant three-story stone house first built by a German Lutheran missionary in 1868, a short walk from the historic Old City. But he is not an ambassador and the mission is a consulate, not an embassy.
For decades, those distinctions have rankled many Israeli Jews. The United States, along with the rest of the world, has kept its primary diplomatic footprint not in Israel’s self-declared capital, Jerusalem, but in the commercial and cultural hub of Tel Aviv to avoid seeming to take sides in the fraught and never-ending argument over who really has the right to control this ancient city.
Until now. Maybe.
President-elect Donald J. Trump vowed during his campaign that he would relocate the mission “fairly quickly” after taking office. That in itself is nothing new: For years, candidates running for president have promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and for years, candidates who actually became president have opted against doing so.
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Editor’s note: The U.N. Security Council has consistently maintained that East Jerusalem, captured in the 1967 War, is occupied territory subject to the Geneva Convention. The Security Council has declared Israel’s attempt to make Jerusalem the “eternal and indivisible” capital of Israel to be in violation of international law. There are 82 foreign embassies in Israel, none of them is located in Jerusalem.