For decades, presidents have vowed to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move would not-so-subtly signpost Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It would also severely strain relations with Palestine and other Arab states. The reason? They view East Jerusalem as their own capital, and a key to any future peace agreement.
On 6 December 2017, Donald Trump announced his intention to do what those before him held off from doing. Then came the whirlwind.
Domestic backlash, protests across the Muslim world, and an embarrassingly one-sided opposition vote in the United Nations puts the decision in hot water.
But with all of the legal, political, and spiritual baggage accompanying the status of Jerusalem, how can we get hold of it? For that, here is a concise, helpful guide to understand the history of the issue, as well as arguments in favor of and in opposition to moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.
How We Got Here — Some Context
“How to Move the US Embassy to Jerusalem” — Foreign Policy, 30 November 2017
“While successive presidential administrations have expressed strong reservations about relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Congress has not. To the contrary, it has repeatedly adopted bipartisan resolutions expressing its support for such a move, often with overwhelming support. At times, it has also enacted legislation requiring the executive branch to take steps that would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
“The Jerusalem Issue, Explained” — The New York Times, 9 December 2017
“The United States has, for decades, positioned itself as the primary mediator between Israelis and Palestinians. Neutrality ostensibly allows the United States to remain a credible arbiter and keeps both sides at the negotiating table. American diplomats tend to consider neutrality a bedrock principle and essential for peace, and see Mr. Trump’s announcement as an alarming break.”
“A Plan for Peace That Still Could Be” — The New York Times Magazine, 7 February 2011
“The really creative ideas were about the disposition of the Old City and holy places — the Islamic sites of the Haram Al-Sharif (or Temple Mount), the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and so forth, which both sides agreed were indeed part of the ‘holy basin.’ Olmert suggested that it be governed by a kind of custodial committee, made up of five countries: Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Israel. (Abbas was under the impression that as many as seven trustees might be involved, including Egypt and the Vatican.)”
Perspectives In Favor of Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem
“Finally, a President Who Looks at Jerusalem Logically” — The Atlantic, 6 December 2017
“Nevertheless, if the U.S. continues to declare that Jerusalem’s final borders should be negotiated (meaning that it leaves open the possibility of a Palestinian capital in the eastern part of Jerusalem), and if the U.S. refrains from describing Israel’s capital as “united” or “undivided” Jerusalem, and if the U.S. continues to refrain from taking any steps that recognize Israel’s annexation of the territories east of the 1967 line, and assuming that the new embassy will be located in Jerusalem west of that line—then Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim leaders who are not itching for violence should be able to legitimately say that Trump’s declaration effectively changes nothing.”
“The United States and Jerusalem” — Dr. Michael Rydelnik’s Blog, 8 December 2017
“…accepting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is merely recognizing reality. Jerusalem has been the capital since the birth of Israel in 1948. It is the seat of Israel’s government, housing the Knesset, the High Court of Justice, and the Prime Minister’s and President’s residences. Moreover, there is no question that whatever is decided about how to share Jerusalem in a possible peace deal with the Palestinians, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital. This is a reality and not an issue under dispute. Even the United Nations does not anticipate a peace agreement that will ever make Jerusalem an international city. The Palestinian disappointment with President Trump’s decision is rooted in their denial of reality, with their objective that one day Israel will cease to exist and that the Palestinians will take over all of Jerusalem. The United States needs to make policy based on reality, not far fetched fantasies.”
“Move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem” — National Review, 28 November 2017
“Official U.S. policy towards Israel, our most important Middle Eastern ally, is to give deference to a defunct U.N. General Assembly Resolution that never had the force of law; to undermine legitimate Israeli claims to West Jerusalem; and to allow decades-old threats of violence to veto where and how America’s ambassador and diplomatic staff conduct their work and live their lives.”
Perspectives In Opposition to Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem
“The US Embassy in Jerusalem: What’s the Big Deal?” — The Institute of Middle East Studies, 21 December 2017
“First, there is a history here. Many American Evangelicals, well-aware of the story of the Exodus and the entrance of the promised land led by Joshua, are unaware of regional developments in the Middle East since the time of Christ.”
“Donald Trump: A President Swallowed by History” — Al Jazeera, 12 December 2017
“Capitals are much more than cold, sculpted monuments to those that have come before, or warehouses of political ideals and rights beyond the reach of all but the chosen few. Nor can they inspire from behind barricaded buildings in which petty despots dole out rights and benefits based upon one’s mere name or faith. Capitals are homes to collective freedom and will, with open doors that know no artificial boundaries or lawful segregation. To be honest, to empower, they must represent the collective will and aspirations of all those who look to them for justice and opportunity.”
“Should US Move Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem?” — USA Today, 9 December 2017
“There is an old adage, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” A Lebanese Christian distributor living and working in Saudi Arabia told me last month that, in our lifetimes, we will see an unprecedented alliance between Israel and Sunni Arab countries against their common enemy, Iran, and its Shi’ite and Shi’ite-leaning allies, such as Iraq, Assad’s Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, etc. If the U.S. embassy is moved to Jerusalem, then this alliance may not happen anytime soon. Indeed the Palestinians’ promised “three days of rage” may have already broken out by the time this is published.”