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Five Risks and Rewards of Embassy Move

Binyamin Rose

For Israel and the US, Benefits Outweigh Potential Pushback

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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PLEDGING ALLEGIANCE An embassy move would represent an unequivocal American show of support for Israel, demonstrating the strategic alliance between the two nations (Photos: Flash90, AFP/ImageBank)

L ast month, Russia announced that it would recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the event there was a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Could the US make that same decision, even if peace remains a distant dream?

We will know for sure whether President Trump plans to keep one of his major campaign promises — to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — when he makes his first state visit to Israel next week.

A few weeks after Trump was sworn into office, when the move appeared to be a done deal, Major-General Amos Yadlin, the IDF’s chief of military intelligence from 2006 to 2010 and currently executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, wrote that, in principle, Israel should welcome such a move.

Yadlin highlighted five main risks to the move as well as the five reasons why Israel has little to fear but fear itself.


Risk: A Third Intifada

Using Jerusalem as a symbol, and the inflammatory slogan of “al-Aqsa is in danger” as a rallying cry, Palestinians could take to the streets and launch a new round of terror that could spill over into Arab population centers inside Israel, setting off riots.

Reward: Inject a Dose of Realism

The probability of another intifada is not high: the Palestinian population has neither any interest in starting nor ability to sustain another all-out confrontation. Moving the embassy might inflame religious sensitivities, but the US and Israel could counter Palestinian sticks and stones with a withdrawal of the carrots of financial aid and political support.

Risk: Kill the Peace Process

The conventional wisdom dictates that moving the embassy will end any chance of restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Trump administration has made it clear that possibility is a serious consideration in their final decision.

Reward: Political Shock Treatment

The peace process has been dormant anyway since 2008, when PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] rejected Prime Minister Olmert’s generous peace terms, choosing instead to challenge Israel in a wide array of international institutions. Moving the embassy could shock the Palestinians into rethinking their strategy and restarting talks.

Trump fulfilling his campaign promise would render obsolete the 1947 UN General Assembly Resolution 181 internationalizing Jerusalem, even while it accepted a Jewish state

Risk: Weaken Israel’s Claims to Jerusalem

Moving the embassy to West Jerusalem could paradoxically weaken Israel’s claim to a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty and reinforce international recognition of PA claims to East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

Reward: Dilute International Resolutions on Jerusalem

If President Trump is no fan of international institutions, an embassy move would render obsolete the 1947 UN General Assembly Resolution 181 internationalizing Jerusalem, even while it accepted a Jewish state. It would also serve as a diplomatic counterpunch to recent UNESCO resolutions denying any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

Risk: Deterioration in Relations with Egypt and Jordan

Even if Israeli Arabs and Palestinians remain calm, popular opposition to the move could erupt and threaten the stability of the two countries that share a land border with Israel and with whom Israel has formal peace treaties.

Reward: Heighten Regional Cooperation

This risk could be mitigated by consulting Egypt and Jordan before and during the process. For Jordan, that means reiterating the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s special status regarding Muslim holy sites. For Egypt, it might mean a boost in US aid, and for the Palestinians, significant new aid programs to improve their socioeconomic status in Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem and expanding the PA’s powers in Areas A and B.

Risk: Damage US Interests in the Arab World

An embassy move could spark Islamic terrorism against US targets around the world, which would potentially weaken support for Israel in the US.

Reward: Strategic Solidarity

An embassy move would represent an unequivocal American show of support for Israel demonstrating the strategic alliance between the two nations. Yadlin concludes: “The history of US support for Israel has shown that it does not harm the status of the United States in the Arab world; sometimes, the opposite is true.” (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 660)

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