What are the benefits for the US in declaring Jerusalem as Israel's capital?

  • According to CNN, Trump has just recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital:

    President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday and announced plans to relocate the US Embassy there, a move expected to inflame tensions in the region and unsettle the prospects for peace.

    Wikipedia informs us that Jerusalem's status is quite unclear:

    There is significant disagreement in the international community on the legal and diplomatic status of Jerusalem. Legal scholars disagree on how to resolve the dispute under international law. Many United Nations (UN) member states formally adhere to the United Nations proposal that Jerusalem should have an international status.

    Also, this seems to be opposing the legal position of the vast majority of states:

    The majority of UN member states and most international organisations do not recognise Israel's ownership of East Jerusalem which occurred after the 1967 Six-Day War, nor its 1980 Jerusalem Law proclamation, which declared a "complete and united" Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

    Another CNN article explains about possible issues related to this decision:

    The final status of Jerusalem has always been one of the most difficult and sensitive questions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If the United States declares Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it would be seen as prejudging that question, deciding an issue that was supposed to be left to negotiations and breaking with the international consensus on the holy city.

    Question: What are the benefits for the US in declaring Jerusalem as Israel's capital??

    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

    Fun fact, Clinton, W. Bush, and Obama each promised to do this.

  • Machavity

    Machavity Correct answer

    4 years ago

    It's important to remember that there was a lot of symbolism here. Israel has always considered Jerusalem its capital (something codified in 1980). The international community, however, is divided on that subject, partially because the Palestinian Authority views East Jerusalem as their capital as well:

    The Palestinian National Authority views East Jerusalem as occupied territory according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. The Palestinian Authority claims all of East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, as the capital of the State of Palestine, and claims that West Jerusalem is also subject to permanent status negotiations. However, it has stated that it would be willing to consider alternative solutions, such as making Jerusalem an open city. The official position of the PNA is that Jerusalem should be an open city, with no physical partition and that Palestine would guarantee freedom of worship, access and the protection of sites of religious significance.

    The quintessential symbol of that division is the Dome of the Rock. It's a holy Muslim site (where Muslims believe Mohammad, their holy prophet, ascended to Heaven). But it's built atop what is known as the Temple Mount, where the Jewish temple once stood (this is above where the Wailing Wall, a holy Jewish site, is located). Solving that problem alone is fairly thorny, let alone what to do about the whole city.

    The reason for the Jerusalem move is the Jerusalem Embassy Act:

    The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 is a public law of the United States passed by the 104th Congress on October 23, 1995. It was passed for the purposes of initiating and funding the relocation of the Embassy of the United States in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no later than May 31, 1999, and attempted to withhold 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the State Department specifically for "Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad" as allocated in fiscal year 1999 until the United States Embassy in Jerusalem had officially opened. The act also called for Jerusalem to remain an undivided city and for it to be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel. Israel's declared capital is Jerusalem, but this is not internationally recognized, pending final status talks in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

    This has been a popular campaign point, with Clinton, Bush (43), and Obama all making speeches in support of it, and then using executive waivers to avoid doing so. Why? Most likely because

    1. it would needlessly anger the Palestinians (who have known terrorist organizations in their midst),
    2. it was likely seen as a bargaining chip in peace negotiations,
    3. it became status quo by the time Bill Clinton left office (political inertia).

    So why is Trump doing it now?

    1. Trump, for better or worse, isn't as concerned with his image as his predecessors. He's unlikely to suffer any immediate political harm from doing it. Almost all of the people viewing this dimly didn't have a good view of him before he did this.
    2. It offers another distraction from domestic woes. Trump is a master at getting the press to change the subject.
    3. It's unlikely to change anything in peace negotiations. The PLO does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Hamas' charter declares they will destroy Israel. Israel was never going to give up Jerusalem.
    4. Trump likes to play hardball in negotiations. He takes an untenable position at first, and then comes back with something more reasonable. He's set a table to try and muscle the Palestinian Authority. From earlier this year:

      "His style of diplomacy is very different from his recent predecessors," former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told CNN International's Hala Gorani Thursday. "He is much more in your face. I suppose the diplomacy of the rest of us is kind of going to have to get used to that."

    -1: The PLO did recognise Israels right to exist as a pre-condition to the Oslo agreement.

    *Trump (…) isn't as concerned with his image as his predecessors.* I would rather say he is concerned with his image with different people than his predecessors.

    @MoziburUllah No. While there was an exchange of "recognition letters" in 1993, this good faith effort was undermined by proceeding statements from Yasser Arafat, to include: "We will not bend or fail until the blood of every last Jew from the youngest child to the oldest elder is spilt to redeem our land! ~ 1996/01/30 "

    @DrunkCynic: nevertheless the recognition letters were exchanged and the Oslo agreement was signed and this whilst such statements had been made on both sides; there's equally blood-curdling statements made by ministers in Israeli cabinent...

    @MoziburUllah There's a key difference here. The PA recognizes that Israel exists. It does not recognize Israel's right to exist.

    @Machavity: I'm splitting hairs?!!! Your link has "They have stated that the Charter was re-written in 1996 to remove the claim. Although it is a bit debatable if they actually have re-writtten that charter, the fact that the PLO states they have done so, and they have recognised Israel's right to exist is the important thing."

    @MoziburUllah "there's equally blood-curdling statements made by ministers in Israeli cabinent"... citation needed

    @joelFan: Here is a posting by Ayelat Shaked, justice minister in Netanyahu's cabinet in 2014: " in wars the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure...

    @joelFan:...actors in the war are those who incite in mosques, who write the murderous curricula for schools, who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there".

    @MoziburUllah that is indeed inexcusable. The point does still need to be made that such views from the Israeli side are quite rare and I'm sure she was swiftly and crushingly condemned by her fellow politicians. Thanks for the citation though.

    @JoelFan: As Israel is the stronger party in the on-going dispute it makes sense that they are less likely to make such comments, they have a lot less to fear.

    Arabs/Muslims know best why they never bothered to make Jerusalem their capital, never in the 600 years of Muslim occupation, not even during the 19 years of Jordanian occupation 1948-1967. In striking contrast to this indifference, the 1949 ceasefire borders in the Jerusalem area best show the cardinal importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish nation: the Jews were unrelentingly willing to sacrifice their best men to carve a bloody way to Jerusalem. Just look at the shape of the 1949 borders. They were not dictated by any topographical justification. Only by 2,000 years of longing to Jerusalem.

    The main reasons for former administrations to not let that happen were that they knew that a) they'll probably trigger another intifada, b) lose a lot of credit in all Arab countries and bring them closer together, possibly losing important weapons trade partners, and c) will never again be able to play a moderating role in the middle east, losing a lot of political influence. This is all blatantly clear for anyone knowing the political situation there. Trump chose to simply ignore all this. Putin probably smiled reading the news.

    @DrunkCynic both sides have made despicable statements and performed despicable acts. Reminding us that someone on one side said something awful doesn't really accomplish anything, other than to continue to inflame, which seems to be the only thing most people want to accomplish. Death to all who oppose us, kill them all, wipe them out, and other meaningless garbage is the go-to rhetoric for fanatics, and given enough time, it will lead to bloodshed. Reasoned discourse cannot happen until people stop bringing up UNreasoned discourse of the past. .

    @barbecue Except the claim that the PLO recognizes Israel's right to exist is patently false when compared to the current public message of the PLO, which calls for the eradication of Israel. Further, Yasser Arafat wasn't just a member of one side, but its leader.

    @DrunkCynic that in no way invalidates my point. It's easy to find extremist points of view on both sides, but it accomplishes nothing to keep bringing them up. Remember the recent Zionist who called for extermination of the Palestinians?

    You could add one more point concerning Trump's take on it: Congress voted to move the embassy, Clinton signed it, and Trump doesn't recognize the authority of the executive branch to waive that law. He's done away with a whole series of executive orders and regulations which he has stated are unconstitutional due to their disregard of Congressional votes; another example would be DACA (Congress did vote on it, and voted against it).

    @BenVoigt Normally I'd agree, but in this case the 6-month waivers were part of the law itself, so there was no abuse of power by any President here. DACA is different because no law was passed.

    @Machavity: Good point... but the law doesn't permit a waiver for political reasons, only for national security. So there's good reason to believe that at least one of the chain of waivers was improper (which would nullify all the succeeding ones too).

    @BenVoigt Then why would Trump issue one? It was after that waiver expired that the move was made.

    @Machavity: According to CNN, "Trump was forced to sign the waiver because the US ambassador does not yet have an official residence in Jerusalem". So apparently he was overriding the (1999) deadline until the move was complete. It would be interesting to know if there was a difference in wording as compared to previous waivers.

    @Machavity: After a bit more investigation, I am fully convinced that the waivers have not been meeting the requirements of the law, specifically Section 7 (a) 3 -- "A report under paragraph (1) or (2) shall include a statement of the interests affected by the limitation that the President seeks to suspend; and a discussion of the manner in which the limitation affects the interests." There's no such thing in *any* of the waivers.

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