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What Impact Will Trump’s Decision on Jerusalem Have?

by Trick Nixon (Principles: None) - 4 month ago

There is no peace process to “derail” or to “jump start.” Maybe many years down the road, we’ll say this mattered but for now, it’s hard to see anything changing very much.

Close your eyes for a second and imagine a news story in which a random President of a random country announces that in a few years, after careful preparations are made, he will be moving his country’s embassy to the capital city of another random country.

Not much of a story. In fact, it probably never even makes it into the newspaper.

Now open your eyes and see the blaring headlines that President Trump has announced that in a few years, after careful preparations are made, he will be moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to the capital city of that country, Jerusalem. Just by simply substituting out the word “random” and substituting in the words “Trump,” “United States,” “Israel,” and “Jerusalem,” we now have the headline story for nearly every newspaper in the world.

The story is big because it generates controversy. Those in favor of the move see it as a bold stroke which shows that the U.S. is finally recognizing reality. They claim that this will force Palestinians to also recognize that reality and finally start negotiating in good faith.  The other, much more common view, is that Trump’s decision was purely political and was made out of ignorance of the complexities that exist in the Middle East. Those who subscribe to this view believe this move, long sought by Israel, will be the final nail in the coffin of the U.S. being seen as an “honest broker” between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The result will be a complete breakdown of the peace process and a major increase in violence.  

I’m going to disagree with both views and predict that in the end, this decision by Trump will essentially have the same impact as the random country deciding to move its embassy to another random country’s capital. My view is based primarily on the fact that Trump’s decision does represent reality. Though diplomats will fudge language, it is well known and accepted that  West Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Furthermore, it is also well known that the U.S. does favor Israel. The continued existence of the Jewish state is a vital U.S. priority. By comparison, creating a Palestinian state is merely a U.S. aspiration which will only happen if the creation of such a state does not threaten Israel.

So in the end, Trump’s decision changes nothing. The peace process will either move forward or, more likely, continue to not move forward, based on actual changes in the facts on the ground. If a new generation of Palestinian leadership emerges which truly wants to create a prosperous Palestinian state, negotiations have a chance. If the Israeli government reaches out to such leadership with offers of financial assistance and greater freedom, negotiations can begin to move forward.

Perhaps in 20 years, we’ll look back and say Trump’s decision was a turning point in the creation of a lasting peace between Israel and the independent state of Palestine. On the other hand, perhaps in a few months we’ll see Trump’s decision as triggering a conflagration in this extremely tense region.  

However, it is far more likely that we’ll look back on Trump’s decision as causing a very temporary flare-up in violence and changing nothing.     

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