Recently, President Donald J. Trump announced moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, thus recognizing Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel in spite of the internationally-recognized capital of Tel-Aviv. While the gesture was largely symbolic, it nevertheless held enormous consequences internationally.
The Palestinian Authority objected to the move and stated that the United States has abdicated its role as mediator between Israelis and Palestinians after this decision. The United Nations General Assembly likewise blasted the move with a 128-to-9 vote to condemn the decision. Britain, France, Germany, and India all voted against Trump’s actions. A total of 35 nations abstained from the vote, including Canada and Australia.
With the international community speaking out against the move, the consequences have already begun to unfold — both in growing acts of violence in the troubled region and new dents in US relations with its allies.
A (Very) Brief History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Throughout the events of WWII, Jewish refugees from Europe poured into the region to escape Hitler. After the conclusion of WWII, allied forces made promises to both Arabs and Jews alike regarding their right to lands in the region. The United Nations intervened and created two separate states: one for the Jewish and one for Palestinian people.
Israel declared its independence in 1948. Soon after, the first of many conflicts between Israel and the surrounding Arab world erupted.
Efforts at Peacemaking
In recent years, multiple attempts have been made to bring peace to the beleaguered region. In November 2012, the UN made a historic first step in moving towards easing relations between Israel and Palestine by voting to accept Palestine as a non-member observer. This move, approved by an overwhelming majority of member nations, laid the groundwork to recognize the rights of Palestinians as a separate and distinct nationality.
In July of 2013, Israeli and Palestinian leaders met in a series of peace talks held in Washington, D.C. For the next several years, negotiations seemed to move toward recognizing Palestine as a sovereign state. Even the Vatican moved to recognize Palestine as a separate state.
However, in 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on the eve of his re-election that he would not recognize a two-state solution. Though he later clarified his statement by saying it was only in the context of recent events that there could be no such solution, a resurgence of violence between Israelis and Palestinians erupted anew. The violence was further exacerbated when Israel allowed the relocation of over 4,000 homes to a Palestinian region.
Most recently, in April 2017, Russia recognized West Jerusalem as the future capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. In December 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and ordered the U.S. embassy be moved there from Tel-Aviv.
Not only was Trump’s decision condemned by the international community, but it also renewed tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Population in the Palestinian territories is becoming more desperate, losing hope in getting their own sovereign state. As a direct result, the safety of not only Israelis and Palestinians in the region has been compromised, but also foreign diplomats have likewise been threatened.
Given the loss of neutrality, the U.S. can no longer serve as an impartial arbitrator of compromise in the region. While cries for peace remain, the elusive specter of an end to the conflict has never seemed this farther away. What, if anything, can be done to ensure the rights of all involved are protected?
Jerusalem remains at the core of the conflict, as the city holds particular religious significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Moving forward, any attempts at peace must include a division of the sacred city into a “two-state solution” to the conflict. One reasonable step would be to go in the direction of Russian foreign policy by recognizing West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
Ultimately, given the history of the region and the damage recently inflicted by President Trump’s declaration, a one-state solution will never bring peace to this war-torn region. Only by moving forward and having all nations unilaterally recognizing Palestine as a sovereign nation-state can there be any hope for a lasting peace.
Even though our Republican government has made its pro-Israel stance clear, any declaration by the international community in formally recognizing Palestine will fail to bring peace to the region without American involvement — currently, the U.S. maintains an enormous military force in the area. If Trump and Republicans remain adamant in this, refuse to bow to international wishes on the matter, and continue to take Israel’s side only, the cost will be measured in human lives and billions of dollars.