Monday, September 26, 2016

Jerusalem and Trump

On September 25, the Associated Press reported that Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At that meeting, according to this report, as seen in the New York Times online edition of September 25, 2016, Mr. Trump ”repeated his pledge to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv if he's elected to the White House.”

Of all the things Mr. Trump could have talked about with the Prime Minister, why did he raise the US embassy issue? Mr. Trump obviously meant to curry favor with Jewish voters ahead of the upcoming presidential elections. Advised by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, the owner and publisher of the conservative New York Observer, Mr. Trump chose to lend his support to an issue that may appear largely symbolic. What does it matter whether the US embassy is in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem? 

It would not be the apocalypse, but it would spell the end of an era in US politics in the Middle East. It would mean that the US, under a Trump administration, would give up its role as an honest broker and take a position that would effectively and officially end US support of the Oslo Process.

In the Jerusalem Embassy Act (1995), Congress mandated the State Department to move the US embassy from its current location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Every US president has since declined to follow suit. Instead, every six months, the president signed a statement reaffirming that the US will not preempt the diplomatic settlement of the Jerusalem question but leaves it to final status negotiations between the two major parties, the State of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) who are signatories of the Oslo Accords of 1993. 

While perhaps merely pandering to Jewish voters, if Trump is elected and if, as president, he implemented the Jerusalem Embassy Act, as promised to PM Netanyahu, this would herald a major change in US policy. It would mean the end of US support for the two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

If we care about Jerusalem, which is as much a Muslim and a Christian city as it is a Jewish one, and if we care about a peaceful and equitable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must not be swayed by one-sided, short-sighted declarations on the city's future.

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