Trump's Promise Is Jerusalem's Problem

By Dyer, Gwynne | Winnipeg Free Press, December 11, 2017 | Go to article overview

Trump's Promise Is Jerusalem's Problem


Dyer, Gwynne, Winnipeg Free Press


‘All of us are saying: ‘Hey, United States, we don’t think this is a very good idea,’” said Jordan’s King Abdullah II in 2002, when it became clear that then U.S. president George W. Bush was going to invade Iraq. But Bush didn’t listen — and it turned out to be an extremely bad idea.

This time, as current U.S. President Donald J. Trump was about to announce that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there, King Abdullah simply sounded resigned: “The adoption of this resolution will have serious implications for security and stability in the Middle East.”

He knows there’s no point in protesting, even if it ends up meaning that Jordan has to break diplomatic relations with Israel. Trump is simply keeping a campaign promise he made in order to win the votes of American Jews and evangelicals — and he neither knows nor cares about the implications of his decision for the Middle East.

Neither does he care that he is abandoning an American policy that has endured for seven decades and is still observed by every other country with an embassy in Israel. They are all down on the coast, in Tel Aviv, because the final status of Jerusalem in international law is still to be determined.

It’s still up in the air because the 1947 United Nations resolution that recommended the creation of independent Jewish and Arab states in Palestine also put Jerusalem under a separate Special International Regime, since it is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

That never happened, because the UN resolution triggered a war that left Jerusalem divided between Israel and what remained of Arab Palestine (all of which was promptly annexed by Jordan and Egypt). And since the Old City, the heart of Jerusalem, was now part of Jordan and exclusively Arab in population, all the embassies stayed in Tel Aviv.

In the 1967 war, Israel conquered the eastern, Arab-majority part of Jerusalem (and all the rest of Palestine too). In 1980, it declared that the entire “reunited” city would be Israel’s eternal capital. The embassies still didn’t move, however, because Israel had no more right to annex East Jerusalem in 1980 than Jordan did in 1948. International law no longer allows borders to be moved by force.

Nothing has changed since then. There are 88 foreign embassies in Tel Aviv — and not one in Jerusalem.

This is inconvenient, since most Israeli government offices are up in Jerusalem, but diplomats and foreign ministries generally take international law quite seriously. …

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