Canadian Friends of Peace Now views with deep dismay President Trump’s intention to transfer the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The President said his decision is not a departure “from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement.” But these are empty words. The move signals to the Palestinians and the Arab world that America has no intention of even trying to broker that “ultimate peace deal” and is a serious set-back to anyone who does want to keep the two-state solution alive.
True, Israelis and the Jewish diaspora have always considered Jerusalem Israel’s capital. But the salient issue today is which Jerusalem. The Netanyahu government wants all of it recognized as Israel’s alone: the Jewish western sectors, the Arab eastern sectors, the Old City and the many new Jewish housing developments to the north, south and east. The Palestinians lay claim to East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The entire international community, including the U.S. up to now, agreed that the status of Jerusalem must be decided in a negotiated peace agreement between the Israel and Palestinians. Various proposals have been put forward for Jerusalem as a dual capital, with possible international jurisdiction over certain areas. It would take the utmost diplomacy and a political sea change for such plans to be accepted, especially by Israel. It would be equally difficult to persuade the Palestinians to relinquish their claims. Everyone knows that Jerusalem is among the thorniest of the issues between the two sides. But to close the door on the possibility is to endorse a one-state Greater Israel perpetually ruling over a disenfranchised Palestinian population. And that is precisely how the president’s announcement is perceived by the Palestinians. His vague reassurances that the U.S. has not taken a position on final status issues or contested borders are more empty words.