By: Schondra Aytch
Last week, Trump acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Breaking a 70-year peace consensus, Trump’s decision to move the U.S embassy to the holy city has caused riots in the region; specifically in areas with large Arab communities. As the Palestinians and Israelis historic rivalry reaches a new level of urgency, international condemnation has grown against President Trump’s statement.
Since the influx of Jewish immigrants moving to Jerusalem in the early 1900’s, Arabs and Jews have been at odds. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the Zionist movement that left many British Jews controlling much of Jerusalem took a toll on the local Arab population. Jerusalem, respected for housing pivotal moments in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, was not only a sacred place, but represented distinction and aristocracy. As high ranking Palestinian Arabs lost power, a Palestinian national movement grew against Jewish immigrants and soon lead to deadly riots in the early 1930’s.
With a partition plan for Palestine initiated by the United Nations in 1947, Jerusalem became a place governed by two states. With Jerusalem considered an “international state,” it acknowledged both the holy city’s significance for Arabs and Jews. The United Nations efforts kept violence at bay- for a moment. Only a day after Israel declared independence in May of 1948, Arab countries joined the Palestinians in attacking Israel. As Israel gained strength with European allies, the Palestinians were defeated and lost their heavily populated Eastern part of Jerusalem. With much of Jerusalem technically governed by Israeli forces, countless wars continued up until the 2000’s. Despite Israel’s many peace treaties with various Arab countries, its relationship with Palestine has always been full of tension.
So you might be wondering how the U.S is involved in all of this. After the UN’s effort to partition didn’t sit well with the Palestinians, America proclaimed itself as mediator and promoted communication between Arabs and Jews. This action by the U.S was likely taken to deter the Soviet Union from becoming a close ally to Arab countries. Ironically, America benefited from relations with Israel as it grew as an economic superpower in the Middle East. Now, as Israel confronts threats from Palestine, with a greater reputation and risk- the future of Jerusalem hangs in the balance.
America and Israel’s relationship will determine how the Jerusalem conflict will affect the Middle East. Despite disapproval from countless leaders all over the globe, Israel’s PrimeMinister Benjamin Netanyahu has strongly supported Trump’s statement. Netanyahu’s recent meeting with the European Union confirmed just how optimistic he is that other nations will move their embassy to Jerusalem. EU Diplomatic Chief Federica Mogherini shared during the meeting that Trump’s announcement “discredited a bit the United States as an honest broker.” With Netanyahu, firm in his belief that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel, Trump has already planned when building of the new U.S embassy will commence.
With the embassy move expected to take at least three years, Trump has faced the controversy by emphasizing that his statement was a campaign promise.While critics have perceived Trump’s abrupt timing as an appeal to right wing evangelicals, the embassy move is legitimate. In 1995, Congress passed bi-partisan legislation that was suppose to establish the US embassy in Jerusalem before May 31st, 1999. But since then, presidents from Clinton to Obama have waived the move in fear of disrupting the fragile peace in Jerusalem.