The Administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital simply acknowledges a reality that has existed since 1948 and that has been accepted by the majority of the international community.
For 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been the national center of the Jewish people. It has been Israel’s capital since it achieved independence in 1948 and home to its government. The US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, putting into law that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and mandated moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It has been delayed by presidents for 22 years so as to not “upset the peace process.”
However, a look at the historical record shows that the success or failure of the Arab-Israeli peace discussions has nothing to do with the location of US embassies. Palestinian leaders had five formal offers from Israel and/or the international community to create an Arab state as far back as 1937. They rejected each one, dooming their people to more hardship.
It doesn’t need to be this way. Once Palestinians have leaders who can state publicly that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people and paint a vision of coexistence, peace, and progress with Israel, then peace is possible.
Peace has held with Egypt and Jordan for nearly 40 years. In negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, it was always made clear that Jerusalem would remain Israel’s capital. Moreover, the US administration clarified that it will not prejudge final borders, which can only be decided in negotiations.
Israel, as it has since its founding, holds its hand open for peace with its Arab neighbors. Mahmoud Abbas, however, said he no longer sees the US as having a role in peace negotiations, once again rejecting peace talks. We can only hope for new Palestinian leadership that will one day make peace.
Randy Kessler is executive director of StandWithUs Northwest, an international Israel-education organization. Randy is a Seattle native and lifelong member of the Jewish community.
The understanding that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital is not a secret. The Israeli government is based there. The prime minister lives there. This is the beating heart of the country, as any Jerusalemite can tell you. Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital is also not a secret. Palestinians live in the eastern side of the city, while the Jews reside in the west. It is a tense, delicately imbalanced line. When this shaky imbalance is disturbed, people lose their lives.
This is what Trump never took into account when he made his announcement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He did not account for the hopelessness that he struck into the hearts of the Palestinian people. He did not account for the pain and confusion and the lives that would be disrupted.
This statement was not for the betterment of the Israeli people, nor a show for his allies. This was a result of a desire to become the first president to solve the Middle East crisis. But how can one man solve a crisis that he does not understand? This declaration was a clear sign to the Palestinians that Trump has no interest in them. He cares not for their grievances and hardships, nor for their struggle for statehood.
This was not a move for peace as Trump so triumphantly declared. You cannot be a broker of peace when you show yourself as unwilling to fight for both people. A capital should be declared in peace, in solidarity, and in partnership. Trump’s declarations expose his limited understanding of the Middle East and the pain and hope so interwoven they almost cannot exist without each other.
Make no mistake; this will not halt the peace process. While this may set it back, it will not end it. Trump is not powerful enough to do that. All he did was show a hopeless, tired people, a people searching for justice and international recognition, that Donald Trump does not care about their future.
Zoey Ilouz is a recent transplant to Seattle by way of Tel Aviv. She spent the last eight years living in Israel and recently finished her master’s in conflict resolution at Tel Aviv University.