On the evening of Tuesday, December 5, President Trump unexpectedly announced that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, with plans to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem. The announcement has caused reactions ranging from disappointment to outright panic among both American and Middle Eastern officials, who believe that this decision could be interpreted as a declaration of war that may lead to the destruction of the two-state solution.
Officials from the Trump administration explained the move, saying that Trump made this decision to acknowledge “historical and current reality”. Administration officials later clarified that while Trump would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this decision would not determine what would be done in regards to issues such as sovereignty and official boundaries, which would still be subject to negotiations.
Reactions to President Trump’s decision around the world have been mixed. Whereas Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Israel’s unique relationship with the United States, government officials from Saudi Arabia have called the decision a “flagrant provocation to Muslims”. King Abdullah of Jordan said Trump’s choice would undermine efforts to continue the peace process, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has spoken out against the decision as well, calling it a mark of “incompetence and failure”.
As of this morning, there have been widespread protests against Trump’s announcement in Middle Eastern countries. In Gaza, Palestinians have gathered to rally against the decision, burning American and Israeli flags. In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian demonstrators burn photographs of President Trump, chanting slogans claiming that he threatens international stability.
Despite continued warnings from Arab and Western allies, Trump will proceed to work with the US State Department to begin moving the US Embassy from the city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump expressed his support for Israel throughout his run for president, and his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should come as no surprise, as it is a fulfillment of a major campaign promise. Trump administration officials have stated that the physical location of the American embassy is “not an impediment to peace”, nor is it an initiator to peace. “After having tried this for 22 years,” one official stated, “an acknowledgment of reality seems like an important thing.”