Trump Heightens Palestinian-Israeli Conflict by Declaring Jerusalem the Capital of Israel
U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital represents a reversal of decades of American foreign policy. It not only is likely to spur more conflicts in the Middle East, but also makes it more difficult for the U.S. to be seen as a capable, neutral broker of peace between Israel and Palestine.
After Trump announced his intentions to declare Jerusalem as the Israeli capital earlier this week, he received immediate criticism from leaders from across the globe. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, staunchly opposed Trump’s intentions, saying that, “A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as a future capital of both states.”
Reactions from right-wing Israeli leaders contrast reactions from leaders of most other nations. Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home Party in Israel, said to Trump that he wanted to thank “you from the bottom of my heart for your commitment and intention to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
The idea that Jerusalem would be split between Israel and Palestine has been a key requirement from Palestinians during the peacemaking process. However, Israel has frequently said that they would only accept a deal in which they have a full control of Jerusalem as capital.
The international community recognizes East Jerusalem as occupied territory, as it was captured and annexed by Israel in 1967. Both Israel’s Parliament and Prime Minister’s home sit in West Jerusalem, and Palestinians want to split Jerusalem and take East Jerusalem as their capital.
Trump’s actions, which were done both to fulfill a campaign promise that is likely to happen as he is on such good terms with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, concede a critical aspect of any peace agreement between the two nations to Israel.
A primary issue with the peace negotiations is that, as former Secretary of State John Kerry has warned, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is emphatically not between equals, but between the occupier and the occupied. Israel is creating new facts on the ground “leading towards one state and perpetual occupation.”
In fact, although Netanyahu has expressed willingness to work towards a two-state solution, in the past year he has supported legislation in the Knesset to legalize most of the 100 settler outposts in the Palestinian West Bank. According to the Human Rights Watch, within the settlements, Israel’s “security forces appear to use excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators and suspected attackers, raising the specter of extra-judicial killings.” Israel has also renewed the practice of punitive home demolitions.
Yet Trump doesn’t frame the recognition as an effort to support the Israelis. In his speech on Wednesday, officially announcing and explaining his decision, he said, “After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.”
What Trump fails to acknowledge, however, is the danger that Palestinians face if the Israelis are given an even greater upper hand in negotiations. By giving Jerusalem to Israel, Trump foreshadows Israel having an even greater advantage in peace deals, and also makes the Palestinians less likely to work with the U.S. on a deal.
The Palestinians' chief representative to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, reacted to Trump's announcement as “a kiss of death to the two-state solution.” He also told the BBC that Trump is “declaring war in the Middle East….against 1.5 billion Muslims (and) hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel.”
Simply giving Jerusalem to the Israelis does not reflect a fair or deliberative solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Rather, it shows Trump’s commitment to supporting Israeli interests, and will only be met with dissent, and possibly violence, from the Palestinian government and community.