President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by ordering the United States Embassy to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Dec. 6, 2017. Despite predictions that Palestinian violence would explode with the president’s decision, Israel saw little violence as a result of Trump’s actions.
I was in Israel over Christmas break and my tour guide informed our group that Jerusalem had seen very little protesting over the issue. My trip to Israel, however, also showed how complicated the region is, especially regarding the movement of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem since both the Israelis and the Palestinians lay claim to the city.
While in Israel, our group met with Palestinians in the area and heard their concerns. One resident expressed concern that the United States’ decision indicated a rejection of a future Palestinian country in the region, since Palestinians have generally made the possession of Jerusalem one of the requirements for a two-state solution. As a result, the locals feared the decision would reopen old wounds among Palestinians.
The president’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem additionally sparked concern in the international sphere, which resulted in an emergency U.N. meeting. The result of the meeting was a vote among U.N. member states with 128 countries declaring that Jerusalem was not the capital of Israel, 35 countries abstaining from the vote, and nine voting against the resolution, one of which was the United States.
This vote raises two concerns for Israelis and Americans alike. First, Israel views Jerusalem as its capital city, and as a sovereign nation Israel has the right to choose the location of its capital within its jurisdiction. Yet by voting against the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem, the nations of the world refuse to recognize Israel’s sovereignty.
Further, these nations pander to the Palestinians for fear of how terrorist organizations such as Hamas would respond. If the U.N. disrespects Israel’s sovereignty in legislative and judicial decisions, will it also reject other countries’ sovereignty when their policies do not suit its goals?
The U.N. does not have the right to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign country, especially in the location of a nation’s capital since it is not an interference in another country’s affairs or a move away from peace. The U.N. vote merely shows its willingness to ignore countries’ sovereignty and overstep its legal bounds.
Trump’s decision to move the embassy also corrected a significant flaw in U.S. foreign policy that has tarnished its reputation. For many years, the U.S. refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel due to fear of angering Palestinians and possible retaliation. The U.S. and many other countries, including the United Kingdom, have accommodated the Palestinians in the name of peace and for fear of how they might react. The U.S. sets a dangerous precedent if we allow the fear of terrorism and rioting to determine foreign policy. Hamas, the Palestinian terror organization which enjoys strong support in the West Bank, according to a local, has used such tactics in the past to manipulate international policy in their favor. Trump’s decision affirmed that the U.S. will not submit demands based on threats of violence. Trump drew a line in the sand — one that the world has needed for many years.
Every country has the obligation to recognize the sovereignty of Israel and its right to choose its capital.
Andrew Simpson is a freshman studying the liberal arts.