US Embassy in Jerusalem: What’s the Big Deal?

US President Donald Trump has declared to follow up on his election campaign promise to build a US Embassy in Jerusalem. It’s apparent to anyone familiar with the Israel-Palestine Conflict that this move is an inherently dangerous idea.

In a public address on 6th December, Donald Trump declared his intention to build a US Embassy in Jerusalem. In the same speech, he reinforced the notion that the US is not taking sides and is still committed to a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. That is – in order of appearance – a bad idea, a lie and highly unlikely.

But why is it such a big deal to have the US Embassy in Jerusalem instead of Tel Aviv? Because, as of now, the US Embassy in Jerusalem would be the only one. Currently, all embassies of all nations are located in Tel Aviv, and there is a good reason for that.

The Origins Israel-Palestine Conflict

In case you’re not entirely familiar with the Israel-Palestine conflict, here is a quick (and certainly incomplete) rundown.

During the first World War, Britain promised the Zionists (Jewish Nationalists) a nation of their own in the land of Palestine through the infamous Balfour Declaration. What was intended as a peaceful unification with the Arabs of the region into one state, quickly turned sour. After several clashes in the area and the Jewish Genocide in WWII, more and more Jews settled in Palestine. Britain withdrew their claim and handed the issue of statehood over to the newly formed United Nations, which partitioned the region into two separate countries.

Resolution 181 suggested two sovereign states, one for Jewish people, one for Arabs, with Jerusalem being put under a separate international regime, administered by the UN. Both nations desired Jerusalem, not only for territorial but foremost for religious reasons. Both Judaism and Islam consider Jerusalem holy ground.

As soon as the Jews declared the sovereign state of Israel following Resolution 181, the whole Arab world attacked Israel. The young nation was able to stand its ground and even gain territories, such as West Jerusalem. The Palestinians were dispersed in the process.

US Embassy in Jerusalem: The Final Nail

Roughly 20 years later, in the Six-Days-War, Israel further expanded its territories and, since then, occupies all of Jerusalem, claiming the city as its capital in 1980. The UN considered this move as a violation of international law. Since then, Israel has further expanded east into the West Bank with illegal settlements, continuously violating international law.

The region has been in constant conflict for the past decades with terrorist attacks and violent tensions. The possibility of a two-state solution has become slimmer over time, especially with Israel claiming Jerusalem and building further illegal settlements. The fact that a US Embassy in Jerusalem validates the claim officially would put the final nail in the coffin of a peace treaty.

Implications of a US Embassy in Jerusalem

The US Government already has a consulate in Jerusalem and, oddly enough, a leased space of land where a potential US Embassy in Jerusalem could be built. In fact, Congress has passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which planned to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Due to National Security concerns, this has been continuously waived every six months by every single President since then. Even Donald Trump waived the creation of a US Embassy in Jerusalem in June this year, much to the dislike of his voters who he ensured to deliver on his promises.

The region has been unstable to varying degrees in the past 70 years. Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not only jeopardizing a potential peace agreement between Israel and Palestine but could and probably will be the spark of new instability and violence. An instability that will not only affect Israel and Palestine but the greater region such as Jordan and possibly Syria and Egypt.

The relocation takes a while though, and it may very well take another six months to establish a US Embassy in Jerusalem. While the implications and the possible aftermath are huge, it remains to be seen how the region and the international community will react to this bold move. Even in a best-case-scenario, this decision will destroy more than it fixes for the region as a whole.

About Andreas Salmen

Born and raised in Germany, learned a job in IT and Business and ultimately decided that this wasn't exactly where my life was going to end. Left everything behind to become a writing backpacker instead. The world's crumbling away anyway so why not write about it and get a few good Instagram pics on the way, am I right?

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