US Recognition of Jerusalem and the Future of a Two-State Solution

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By: Zach Klein and Ron Steinhoff

On Wednesday, December 6th, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and announced that the U.S. embassy would eventually be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In his address, Trump proclaimed that a history of Presidential waivers to keep the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv had given way to two decades of failed peace agreements between Palestine and Israel. Because Israel is a sovereign nation, he explained, it reserves the right to choose its own capital, despite past contention from multiple international organizations, including the United Nations. President Trump declared this move is both in the best interest of the United States of America and a peaceful solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In reality, however, this decision has effectively deferred all peace agreements that were underway, as Palestinians feel as though this is a direct infringement upon the land that they feel entitled to.

President Trump claimed he was simply acknowledging the reality that has existed within Israel all along, seeing as though both the Israeli Supreme Court and the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, are housed in Jerusalem. He was sure to acknowledge the significance that Jerusalem holds for three major world religions, but maintained his confidence in the decision, which was a long-standing campaign promise. Near the end of his address, President Trump articulated this decision by no means signifies a decreased “commitment to future peace and security within the region”. He went on to recognize the possibility of violence and dissent in response, but expressed hope peace will prevail in the long run. This declaration has already prompted unrest in the region, with violent clashes erupting between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli Defense Forces. President Trump’s decision seems to have seriously diminished the likelihood of an impending Israeli-Palestinian Two-State peace resolution, if not prevented one indefinitely.

President Trump’s announcement has been perceived internationally as contentious, and unfairly Pro-Israel. Among nations and organizations the U.S. has historically considered to be allies, response to President Trump’s decision was overwhelmingly negative. German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded to the decision via Twitter, saying the “German government does not support this position because the status of Jerusalem is to be resolved in the framework of a two-state solution.” French President Emmanuel Macron described Trump’s decision as “regrettable” and in direct disagreement with the U.N. Security Council. The negative response from France and Germany, two historically close allies of the U.S. does not bode well for future U.S. international relations. These reactions also follow the past instances of the U.S’s seemingly divergent foreign policy decisions under President Trump.

Yet, not all nations saw this as a hurdle to the peaceful two-state solution. Within Israel, reactions to the news were mixed. Many Israeli politicians and citizens expressed extreme joy as they attempted to dance in the streets. However, across town in the streets of Gaza, protests formed. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said this decision symbolically ended the role of the U.S. as a peace broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas, a militant group in the Gaza strip, said this decision would “open up the doors of hell” on U.S. interests in the region

While Jerusalem has been the official capital according to Israel for quite some time, the decision for the U.S. to officially recognize it by moving the Embassy indicates a clearly pro-Israel stance. This decision, which has been condemned on the world stage, further distances the U.S. from its former reputation as a peace-maker and voice of reason. This is one of many instances in which the U.S. under the Trump administration has effectively alienated itself from its former allies and reputation as a global hegemon. Furthermore, the decision promises further unrest and violence and places a sizeable damper on the impending Israeli two-state solution that politicians had been working at for decades.

Regardless of President Trump’s decision, the U.S. and other influential countries and organizations should continue to seek a peaceful solution regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While President Trump’s decision may be a mere recognition of Israel’s chosen capital, it holds incredible weight for Palestinians around the world who claim that Jerusalem is also their home. An Israeli two-state solution seems to be the only viable option towards permanent peace in the region and should always be a continued goal.

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