In an unprecedented move, U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to officially move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This action drew condemnation from the United Nations (U.N.), European Union (E.U.) leaders, and notable Middle Eastern figures. Construed as an endorsement of Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of Israel, Trump violated international law. Because of this, Trump endangered the two-state solution for peace, and set off violent protests possibly leading to a new intifada.
On Wednesday, Trump announced the change as a “recognition of reality” that Jerusalem is the center of government for the state of Israel. When questioned, administration officials denied any suggestions said action would damage the peace process. A senior official stated,
“It seems clear now that the physical location of the American embassy is not material to a peace deal,”
In truth, Trump’s decision set off a series of violent protests. As part of a “three days of rage,” communities located within Gaza and the West Bank revolted. Hamas chief, Ismail Haniya, characterized the act as a “war declaration against Palestinians.” Furthermore, Hamas leadership called for a new intifada (rebellion) against Israel.
Though Israel has long proclaimed Jerusalem as its indivisible capital, the U.N. and most other nations have rejected this position. In the interests of forging peace, the U.N. issued multiple resolutions highlighting Palestinian desire for East Jerusalem to be the capital for a future Palestinian state. Since 1967, the U.N. Security Council released multiple resolutions calling for Israel to withdraw into its pre-1967 borders. In response, Israel ignored said resolutions by holding the Golan Heights and allowing expansionary settlements within the occupied West Bank.
For some, Trump’s embassy move endorsed the Israeli position on Jerusalem’s indivisibility.
U.N. officials outright rejected this position, and described said action as detrimental to the two-state solution for peace. On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guerrers clarified the position of the international community. He said,
“I want to make it clear: there is no alternative to the two-state solution.”
In light of the U.S. decision, eight of the 15 members within the U.N. Security Council called for an emergency council meeting to convene on Friday. The meeting comes shortly after the U.N. General Assembly voted in large part to reject Israeli assertions of an indivisible Jerusalem.
Many E.U. leaders also voiced concern. French President Emmanuel Macron called the status of Jerusalem “a question of international security” and framed the issue as a matter for the international community. Speaking for both his country and the E.U., Macron said,
“France and Europe are attached to a two-state solution…with Jerusalem the capital of both states.”
Speaking for Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concurrent reservations. She said,
“…the status of Jerusalem is to be resolved in the framework of a two-state solution.”
Correspondingly, Italy’s prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, addressed the issue on twitter. Regarding Jerusalem, he wrote,
“Its future will be defined within the framework of the peace process based on the two states, Israel and Palestine.”
While stating that Britain’s embassy will remain in Tel Aviv, the United Kingdom’s prime minister, Theresa May, characterized Trump’s actions as “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region.”
During the last U.N. General Assembly meeting, only a handful of nations endorsed the Israeli position. Out of 193 member states, only six supported Israel’s agenda: Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, U.S. and Nauru. Notably, most of these are Oceania micronations highly dependant on the U.S. for survival.
Overall, most of the world outside of the U.S. and its closest dependants condemned Trump’s embassy move. Now, tensions threaten to devolve into widespread violence.