By moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, President Donald Trump has managed to take the most the most fraught conflict on Earth and make it worse.
On Tuesday, the White House appeared ready to proceed with its previously stated plan to move the embassy and declare Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital—something other administrations have talked about but have never acted upon. Why? Because the final status of Jerusalem—a city jointly claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital—has yet to be determined, pending some future peace agreement between the two sides. While Israelis might celebrate the move, Palestinians would surely see it as both a rejection of their claim to Jerusalem and an unmistakable confirmation that the United States was an egregiously biased mediator in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Well, all of that is happening now. In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian political factions have unified ahead of a scheduled three “days of rage” protests.
“The Palestinian people know how to protect their rights,” Palestinian politician Jamal Mahisan told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. “We are in consultations regarding [our moves] in the coming days.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, reportedly warned Trump that moving the embassy would have “dangerous consequences,” echoing the concerns of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who predicted “possible dangerous repercussions.” Turkey, meanwhile, warned the decision represented a “red line” for Muslims.
But Arab and Muslim leaders aren’t the only ones warning that the Trump administrations plan could be disastrous for the already tense region. In a letter to Trump Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, 25 former Israeli Ambassadors, academics and other dignitaries also publicly denounced the move. In their message, obtained by Haaretz, the group wrote:
We are deeply concerned by recent reports that President Trump is seriously considering the announcement of his decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.
The status of Jerusalem, the city that houses the holy sites of the three monotheistic religions, lies at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and must be determined within the context of resolving that conflict.
Almost immediately after news of Trump’s plan was made public, The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem barred all personnel and their families from traveling in the West Bank and Jerusalem’s old city, and urged all U.S. citizens to “avoid areas where crowds have gathered, and where there is increased police and/or military presence”—definitely a thing you do when your president has made a calm and rational decision.
In other words, a plan to move America’s diplomatic focal point to Jerusalem has already resulted in America’s diplomats being barred from traveling in parts of Jerusalem. Nice work everyone!
According to administration officials, Trump will announce his decision to name Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as early as Wednesday, but will likely sign a six-month waiver before moving the embassy from Tel Aviv.