Jerusalem as Israel's Capital: Smart Politics or Provocation?

December 19, 2017

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During his presidential campaign in 2016, Donald Trump promised to move the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in an effort to appeal to pro-Israel Jewish and evangelical voters. Almost two years later, President Trump has announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to continue with plans to move the American embassy there. Jerusalem is a sacred city for three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Moreover, it has been a source of controversy for decades, as a result of a conflict between Israel and Palestine, who both lay claim to the city. Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, territory which Palestinians want to make the capital of an independent Palestinian state, resulting in an ongoing cycle of violence. To many experts, Jerusalem is therefore the key to achieving peace for Israel and Palestine in the form of a two-state solution, where the territories in question, including Jerusalem, would be divided between Israel and Palestine, allowing both of them to be sovereign states. Although Trump has previously stated that he can live with "the [solution] that both parties like," many people view his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the “kiss of death” to any prospect of peacemaking or solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What is the strategic or political purpose of the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? What are the benefits or costs of this decision? How might this decision impact the United States’ ability to serve as a third-party mediator of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Can a two-state solution still be implemented? How might this affect access to Jerusalem's numerous holy sites? Are any other countries likely to follow suit and move their embassies back to Jerusalem?

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