ECLECTIC RANT: Comment on Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday December 07, 2017 - 11:31:00 AM

On December 6, 2017, President Trump, as expected, recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, fulfilling a campaign promise. However, the decision is really not the radical policy departure that critics claim. 

The process began in 1995, with the passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which required the U.S. to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by a set deadline, but permitted the move to be put off for six months at a time as long as the President “determines and reports to Congress in advance that such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.”  

The Palestinians want Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and want this decision to be determined in peace negotiations.  

In 2017, the potential consequences of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital remain the same: the risk of sparking protests in the Arab world and jeopardizing the standing of the U.S. as a mediator in any future peace talks. Already Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers on December 7 in Jerusalem, Ramallah and other places in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

Last August, White House senior adviser, and President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner led a U.S. delegation on a Middle East tour that included Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. Alongside Kushner, the delegation also included envoy of international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, and national security adviser, Dina Powell to discuss the next steps to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. 

Many have concluded that such efforts were doomed to failure because the Trump administration does not have a clear vision for that peace and Trump lacks even the most basic understanding of what he really wants to achieve. In addition, it is unclear how he would sustain efforts to achieve a peace deal with so much instability in his own office. In order for Trump to succeed, he would have to make it clear that he is committed to the two-state solution and he needs to reject Israel's settlement expansions in the West Bank. 

And to further cloud the issue, Kushner, the leader in the administration’s efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, is a likely target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. 

While Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli's capital will not enhance the chances of restarting the peace process, it would seem that peace negotiations were already a non-starter. It is very likely that Trump will not "get it done."