Why Is Trump’s Jerusalem Decision Such a Big Deal for Foreign Policy?

This month President Trump’s White House reversed decades of U.S. foreign policy by officially acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This means the U.S. embassy will be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It would be difficult to overemphasize the significance of this decision. Just in the short time since Trump’s announcement, the potential fallout has become clear.

After an emergency session, the Arab League denounced the decision, arguing that it serves little practical purpose other than to stir up resentments and encourage unrest in the Middle East. They aren’t wrong.

In Beirut, Lebanon, hundreds of protesters — many of them Palestinian refugees — gathered near the U.S. embassy to decry Trump’s act. The demonstration turned violent as police began using water cannons and tear gas on the crowd. Roughly 50 people were injured.

Even larger numbers marched on the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. Estimates suggest that at least 5,000 people turned up to express solidarity with the Palestinians.

And thousands more participated in demonstrations across the globe.

Why is this seemingly minor action such a big deal? First, it’s worth examining a little historical context.

Claims to East Jerusalem — a portion of Jerusalem that the Palestinians view as their would-be capital — have been divided since its occupation by Jordan in 1948. As a result of the Six-Day War in 1967, however, Israel captured the whole of Jerusalem and still holds it today. Palestinians and most of the Arab world view this as an illegal occupation.

The United States has long been a close ally to Israel, but since 1967 the country has attempted to toe the line of neutrality by refusing to acknowledge Jerusalem or East Jerusalem as capitals of either nation. This recent move by the Trump administration, however, may prove to be too much for Palestinians and their Arab allies.

And it’s already proving to be costly to any attempts at peaceful coexistence.

Trump has justified his decision as “nothing more or less than a recognition of reality” — signaling that the United States no longer has any genuine interest in helping Palestinians and Israelis achieve an amicable solution. And because of this, the U.S. will no longer be invited to the negotiating table.

That may not sound like the worst possible outcome, particularly for those supporting Trump’s declaration, but it creates a diplomatic vacuum that other world powers will be more than happy to fill — and not just when it comes to the Israel-Palestine situation.

As with the conflict in Syria and Iraq, major powers China and Russia have overtly displayed their interest in pursuing a widening influence in the Middle East. Trump’s latest foreign policy blunder is short-sighted and has almost certainly set U.S. relations with the Arab world back years — if not decades.

Trump’s foreign policy seems to be built upon a belief that the U.S. is the world’s only superpower. But that era is in its final days. Isolationism and unilateral diplomatic actions like this will not benefit the United States in any manner, especially when it comes to regions like the Middle East.

Photo Credit: Shmuel Spiegelman / Wikimedia Commons

75 comments

Marg M
Marg M15 days ago

Let's be clear.

The four main issues are the following:

1. Jerusalem
2. Borders
3. Refugees
4. Occupation

These issues aren't controversial.

International Court of Justice Advisory Ruling - unrod.org/docs/ICJ-Advisory2004.pdf
High Court of Israel Beit Sourik v. State of Israel - elyon1.court.gov.il/Files_ENG/04/560/020/A28/04020560.A28.pdf
Hague Regulations [2007] - https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/ihl/INTRO/195

Paul B. None of this is an OPINION, but actually enshrined in International law (to which the United States and Israel are signatory to). Ethnic cleansing is a war crime.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bediniabout a month ago

To go back to the question this article asks, have you seen that at the UN Security Council meeting yesterday the U.S. exercised its right to veto the motion proposed by Egypt that Trump's Jerusalem decision should be annulled. That was 14 in favour of the motion, only the U.S. against. Whatever Trump said in the Security Briefing about collaborating with the rest of the world to put America at the centre of world affairs, he is doing the exact opposite.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bediniabout a month ago

Paul B
You say the Palestinians were 'never going to get their own country'. Whatever can you mean, that WAS their country. Please pay attention to what Brian F is saying. He's telling it like it is.

Certainly the Jews deserved a homeland but this was not the way to go about it, high-handedly disposessing the local population of their lands and their rights. Do you know any Palestinians? I guess not. Well, believe it or not, they are real people just like you. Try putting yourself in their shoes.

And rememer, Jerusalem is a holy city for the three monotheistic religions, Hebrew, Muslim and Christian. Isn't it fair that they should share it?

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Brian F
Brian Fabout a month ago

Paul B Would the USA allow and accept a UN decision to give 60% of it's land to Israel? The 1947 partition modeled off the peel commission, was extremely unfair to the Palestinians, who were over 92% of the population in 1914. Israel was given 60% of the land, including far more coastal areas and the best farm land. The USA would have went to war immediately, so why is it different with the Palestinians? How can the Palestinians respect Israel as a sovereign nation, when it illegally occupies their land, and oppresses the Palestinian people? The UN has made it clear that only West Jerusalem belongs to Israel, and Israel is illegally occupying the entire city, as well as 42% of the West Bank.

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Jetana A
Jetana Aabout a month ago

BAD NEWS!

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Paul B
Paul Babout a month ago

Lowell... this is just YOUR OPINION. There are many of us who support what every president has promised for a couple decades to do. Palestinians are using this as an excuse. They were never going to get their own country... no one wants them, not even the Arabs. The city belongs to Israel and should be duly recognized as such.
The Arabs in the region will NEVER be happy, no matter what you give them as they have repeatedly stated "Death to Israel". They refuse to even recognize Israel as a sovereign nation and seek to push all the Jews into the sea. There is no negotiating with them and why I said it doesn't matter what you do... as long a Israel exists, they won't be happy with any solution.

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Mike R
Mike Rabout a month ago

Terrible decision on Trumps part. What chance of any peace, any at all has been squashed now.

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K M
K Mabout a month ago

Sad to say, the hornet's nest has been stirred up, and the gas poured on the fire. The future looks pretty scary. Let's hope that it is does not end up as bad as it could end up being. We can all still pray for peaceful co-existence for the region.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bediniabout a month ago

Adina Rosenthal
The international comunity recognises Israel's right to West Jerusalem. They illegally annexed East Jerusalem after the six days war in 1967.

Just some background....
United Nations Security Council resolution 476, adopted on 30 June 1980, declared that "all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention".[1]
The resolution was adopted by 14 votes to none, with the United States abstaining.

Dan
When the land allocated to Israel was enlarged to 61% this meant that, for one example, 54 Palestinian farms ended up on the opposite side of the border from the villages. The UN Palestinian Commission was to remedy this but never got around to doing so. Wouldn't you fight to get back your farmland if the legal process failed you?

Herbert C
I would humbly suggest that simply accepting the 'reality on the ground' is defeatist when it is clearly an injustice. Terrorist attacks are a direct consequence of injustice.

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Rachel -
Rachel -about a month ago

Refusing to recognize reality doesn't change it. If it did, Trump would vanish from the denial of #notmypresident'ers. Jerusalem is the capital according to the state that counts - Israel. I would also point out, the Act Herbert C. mentioned actually called for proclaiming it the undivided capital, which Trump did not do. In any case, I think it's possible he spoke out at this time not so much to go against Palestine as to pull Israel back from getting too friendly with Russia. Strictly speaking, Israel is more a strategic partner than an ally and keeping Russia (and by extension Syria and Iran) in check is behind a lot of foreign policy in the region. If you notice, all the recipients of the most US aid border the Russian sphere of influence - Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Ukraine, Afghanistan... Israel gets the most primarily because it's the state most capable of fighting a potential Russian expansion. For its part, Russia arms Hamas, Hizbollah, and other anti-Israeli militants. Just a possibility, it could be that in combo with an untried strategy to broker peace because any president would love to do that and not just look defeated at the Wailing Wall.

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