Why it matters if the U.S. embassy in Israel is located in Jerusalem
On Wednesday, Donald Trump is expected to announce that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel‘s capital. It is believed that he will also put the wheels in motion to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as well.
Trump also told several leaders of Arab nations on Tuesday to let them know about the move. It is expected to be months before the embassy officially moves.
The decision had been rumoured for several weeks, and although many world leaders warned Trump not to, he appears ready to go forward anyways.
Some might ask why a seemingly simple move might be such a big deal. Here are a few answers to that question.
History of the dispute
Israel seized control of Palestinian East Jerusalem from Jordan during a 1967 war and later annexed it. The move was never recognized by the international community but Israel declared the city its undivided capital.
The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Before 1980, several countries had embassies in Jerusalem, including the Netherlands and Costa Rica.
Israel passed a law that year declaring the city to be its united capital which the UN Security Council condemned and led to an exodus of embassies from the city.
A U.S. endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would break with decades of U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians.
No other country has endorsed Israel’s claim to the city.
If the U.S. unilaterally declares Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it would be seen as deciding an issue that was supposed to be left to negotiations, breaking with the international consensus.
Leaders from around the globe have voiced their dissatisfaction with Trump’s move as they believe it will disrupt a delicate balance in the region.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI issued an open letter to Trump against moving the embassy. The Moroccan king expressed his “deep personal concern” and “the great concern felt by Arab and Muslim states and peoples.”
The monarch was writing as head of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Al-Quds Committee, which lobbies on issues related to the city, holy to three of the world’s major religions.
Trump talked with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, both of whom have warned Trump against moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
“Mr. Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a raucous televised speech, echoing alarm expressed by Palestinian and Arab leaders.
Saudi King Salman stressed to Trump that any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem would “inflame Muslim feelings all over the world,” the Saudi Press Agency said.
Impact of the move
While Trump has said he is looking to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the move will make it appear as if the U.S. is picking sides in the ongoing conflict.
For a couple of weeks now, Arab leaders had warned that such a move would disrupt Middle East peace talks.
Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit took it a step further, warning if the U.S. embassy were to move it would be considered a “clear aggression” against the Arab and Muslim world.
Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas has reportedly threatened a new intifada if Trump follows through with the move.
The last intifada occurred in 2000, when Ariel Sharon visited Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Newsweek reports. The uprising against Israeli power left 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis dead over the next five years.
“Any decision to move its embassy there would be ‘a flagrant attack on the city by the American administration’ and give Israel ‘a cover for continuing its crime of Judaising the city and emptying it of Palestinians,’” it said.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, was asked by Israel’s Army Radio if his country was preparing for a wave of violence if Trump recognizes Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, he said: “We are preparing for every option. Anything like that can always erupt. If Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) will lead it in that direction then he will be making a big mistake.”
*With files from AFP, Reuters
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