By Winston Heckt, Staff Writer
Announced on Dec. 6, President Trump formally recognized, and by extension the United States, Jerusalem as capital of Israel, despite the many centuries of dispute over the land. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise,” he stated during a White House press briefing, “they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”
Framed as a large step towards peace in a turbulent area, Trump cited waiving the action set forth in the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, that is, deferring the settlement of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and thereby formally recognizing the city as the capital of Israel, was keeping the area from peace.
“[Earlier] presidents issued these waivers under the belief that delaying the recognition of Jerusalem would advance the cause of peace,” Trump said in his statement to the press. “Some say they lacked courage, but they made their best judgments based on facts as they understood them at the time.”
“Nevertheless, the record is in. After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Trump continued, saying “I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement.”
“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this as a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace.”
Trump’s decision has been heavily criticized by world leaders, United States allies and the global Muslim community. Clashes have erupted across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As of Dec. 12, the Palestinian Red Crescent has provided medical treatment to nearly 1,800 people.
Protests and demonstrations broke out in cities across the globe, including Berlin, Beirut, Istanbul, Rabart and Cairo.
“We disagree with the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement. We believe it is unhelpful in terms of preselects for peace in the region,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May in a statement released the same day as the announcement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also made a statement that day during the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul calling for countries to recognize Palestine.
Commander of Forage Operations of the Revolutionary Guards Qasem Soleimani stated that Iran is ready to support Islamic resistance forces operating in Palestine. Iran’s parliament has called on Muslim countries to reduce their economic involvement with the United States.
“The least move the Muslim states can make is to summon the U.S. ambassadors for explanations; yet basically, they had better show action and cut off relations with the U.S.,” said Ali Motahhari, the vice speaker of the Iranian parliament, according to the semi-official Fars News agency in an article for “The Times of Israel.” “Muslims are needed to take reciprocal action.”
Beyond the immediate effects of Trump’s announcement, it is unclear how exactly the United States recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will affect peace in the region. Despite uncertainty, it is certain that the long-lasting effects will be impactful for persons everywhere.
It is also unclear, given these events, the state of the study abroad trip set for Israel this summer. The program is scheduled from May 26–June 9, offering an immersive experience into Israeli and Palestinian contexts with a focus on the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Students can visit various historic sites throughout Jerusalem and Bethlehem such as the Wailing Wall, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the Jordan River Region, yet, this trip might be endangered if violence erupts in the coming months in the wake of Jerusalem’s new status.
This article first appeared in the Friday, December 15, 2017, Edition of The Echo.