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Many critical voices question Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there. Two experts think for DW about the background of the issue.
The chorus of criticism of Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem grew worldwide since its announcement last Wednesday (06.12.2017). The Security Council of the UN held an extraordinary meeting on the subject yesterday Friday (08.12.2017) in New York and there were protests by Muslims in many parts of the world. Five European countries, Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and Italy, made a joint statement after the UN session, in which they described the decision to move the embassy “useless in terms of prospects for peace in the region” .
Two days ago, an impromptu consultation made by the New York Times to recent US ambassadors in Israel showed that nine out of a total of eleven disagreed with Trump’s decision. In the United States, more than one hundred Jewish scholars signed a petition opposing it. The question that emerges from all this is why the Trump administration has decided precisely now to change decades of US policy toward Jerusalem.
A nod to the Protestant voters
Martin Indyk, a former special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, says the logic of Trump’s decision is easily explained by looking at US domestic policy: “It’s a nod to its Protestant voters, pure and simple,” says Indyk. Spiegel, director of the Center for Near Eastern Development at the University of California, Los Angeles, agrees that pleasing conservative voters has been a key element in this decision.
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy. He now complies with one of his campaign promises with relative ease, after having to fight for other legislative victories, despite Republican control in the country’s two chambers of political representation.
Promise of easy compliance
Unlike other of its electoral promises, such as the repeal of the “Obamacare” health plan and the implementation of the migration veto, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is something simple, which can be carried out only with presidential action. It is not necessarily a “bad idea”: “To change things, to carry out a better idea, but it will not be like that, especially if it’s not a political factor,” explains Steven Spiegel. East Jerusalem is recognized as the Palestinian capital, “he says.
Stir up the conflict
Both experts disagree with both Trump’s decision and how to carry it out, especially because they believe it will hinder US policy toward the Near East, one of the few regions where, according to Spiegel, Trump’s policy had been received from pretty positive way until this moment.
“It really seemed that things were better,” says Spiegel to Deutsche Welle. “Obama was not generally regarded with good eyes and it seems that Trump has taken advantage of it, there is not as badly considered as in other places, this decision is confusing everything.” Martin Indyk, for his part, considers that The relocation of the Jerusalem embassy clashes with Trump’s general strategy towards the Near East. “It has tried to reconcile with its pacifying strategy, but this decision is too unbalanced to appease Palestinian anger,” he argues. For Spiegel, it is a “serious blow” to the peace process in the Middle East and will damage Washington’s image in the region and beyond. “It is symbolic, especially since the relocation of the embassy will take years to be done,” says Indyk. ”