As word spread that President Donald Trump was set to announce America would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, celebrations began. Shouts of “Amen!” and “Hallelujah” were coming from those who support the president’s decision. With his move of recognition, he changed a cornerstone of American policy towards the region.
In his signing address President Trump stated, “After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.”
Muslim leaders from all over the region warned of severe backlash for Trump’s decision. The Arab League has stated that there will be “repercussions.”
The recognition of Jerusalem does very little or nothing at all to advance Israel’s position at the negotiating table, and it needlessly agitates the tensions in the Middle East. Palestinians are calling for “days of rage” over the U.S. decision. Both Fatah, including Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas are supporting the call for protests. Violence promises to break out.
Backlash over Trump’s decision in the media has been strong. “With the Middle East already dealing with several major crises, the decision to change the U.S. position on this subject now is likely to inflame tensions both within Israel-Palestine as well as the broader region,” writes Murtaza Hussain in the Intercept. Jonathan Freedland writes for the Guardian, “[Jerusalem] is a place where diplomats have learned to tread with extreme care. There is a reason why no U.S. administration, no matter how pro-Israel, has changed its policy toward the city in the nearly seventy years since Israel’s founding,”
There is nothing in President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital that could not have been peacefully achieved, with patience, at the negotiating table. In fact, he gave away a huge piece of American leverage over the peace process for free. Moments after the official U.S. announcement, Mahmoud Abbas declared the U.S. would no longer be a partner in peace negotiations. Instead of going against the wisdom of his predecessors, President Trump should have listened to them. His move is careless and reckless, promising to spur needless violence and bloodshed. Thus, there is no reason to celebrate as the world holds its breath.