Alright folks, bear with me: it's time to talk about Israel:Palestine. #foreignpolicyfriday
On Wednesday, Trump announced that he was officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and would move the embassy from Tel Aviv, sparking outrage and worry and celebration. Why?
In 1995, Congress actually passed a law deciding to move the embassy from Tel Aviv (where every other country has its embassy) to Jerusalem, to be completed no later than 1999. However, every president since has ignored that and refused to implement it, because, as we've seen this week, it's a risky move. Both Palestinians and Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital. While West Jerusalem is internationally recognized as Israeli territory, the eastern part of the city is not recognized as Israeli territory by anyone, having been captured by the IDF in the 1967 Six-Day War and expanded by means of settlements. While Jerusalem is the de facto capital of Israel (most government apparatuses are located there and it has been officially visited by many heads of state and US Secretaries of State) and Palestine's de facto capital is Ramallah, to officially recognize it as the capital would be to disregard international law, and incenses Palestinians who claim Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
In response, some Palestinian factions called for "three days of rage", with today being the last day. Over the course of these three days, one Palestinian man was shot and killed by riot police, 50 Palestinians were sent to the hospital, and 13 were jailed.
There is some sense that this was done in an effort to sweeten the deal for Netanyahu, to bring him to the table, but the concession of Jerusalem was not linked to any agreement, and Palestinians have declared the two-state solution dead, despite Trump's remarks that this would bring us closer to peace.
So why would Trump do this? I had a chance to listen and speak to a former Israeli ambassador to the US, and he sees it as a move to placate Trump's domestic base. Evangelical Christians (who went 81% in favor of Trump and go to the polls in Alabama next week) widely support the move, and it helps to distract from the Mueller investigation. Additionally, it benefits his friend, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also suffering domestically. The ambassador suggested this might make Netanyahu more pliable, but there is no evidence of that yet. Furthermore, it's a win for big Republican donors like Sheldon Adelson who welcome the move. So make no mistake: this was not done to advance the peace process.
The ambassador also spoke about the reaction on the ground. The simple answer is Palestinians are angry, and Israelis are pleased. However, it's obviously more complicated: Trump did use the phrase "two-state solution" in his remarks, which some Palestinians welcome, though they generally oppose the move. On the Israeli side, it's bifurcated along party lines: right wingers are ecstatic, while left wingers see the move as inopportune and risky, likely to incite violence and harm the peace process. However, the ambassador said that no one would want to go out and "rain on this parade" publicly.
The result is that Palestinians see the US as unable to fulfill the role of an unbiased mediator acting in good faith. This is a clear move favoring one side, so regardless of what you support, it's clear that the US is not unbiased. However, this has been true from the start. The US has never been a detached third party acting in good faith (happy to talk at length about that in DMs). However, who do we think will now propose they fill that role? Russia, for one. Russia has managed to make inroads in the MENA by capitalizing on the US's abdication of authority, as in Syria. So that's what we may look forward to, if this continues.
In the meantime, the embassy isn't going anywhere -- Trump needs the optics, not a logistical nightmare, and he announced no move-by date. Between navigating real estate and personnel relocation, this will not be done any time soon.
I recognize that my knowledge of this is always incomplete, and welcome critiques and comments and DMs. My intent is to report and make this easily understandable -- not to pass judgment on the Israeli or Palestinian people or their kin. #fpf