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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Trump’s plan to shift US embassy to Jerusalem is counterproductive

Shifting the US embassy to Jerusalem is bad for West Asian stability, and legitimises Israel’s unlawful settlements in East Jerusalem

editorials Updated: Dec 06, 2017 12:10 IST

Hindustan Times
Ultra Orthodox Jews are seen walking in the city of Jerusalem in the Mount of Olives with the Dome of the Rock mosque in the background
Ultra Orthodox Jews are seen walking in the city of Jerusalem in the Mount of Olives with the Dome of the Rock mosque in the background(AFP)

United States President Donald Trump claims to be a shrewd businessman, and believes that “…it’s time America was run like a business”. But not everyone is reassured by his self-proclaimed “business acumen”. If creating tension and uncertainty is his way of doing business, Mr Trump’s doing a good job.

On Monday, the US president missed his second deadline to sign a waiver to the controversial 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, heightening speculation that he will soon announce his intention to shift the US embassy to Jerusalem from its current location in Tel Aviv. The 1995 US law requires the US embassy be shifted to Jerusalem unless the president signs a waiver every six months. All US presidents since then have signed the waiver; Mr Trump last signed it in June, which was seen as being against his campaign promise.

If Mr Trump goes ahead with his plan, it will perhaps be the most significant step in the recent past to upset the fragile peace process, a process that has a highly sensitive trip switch. News reports suggest that White House officials have reservations about the move and it has been opposed by US allies and Arab nations. Jordan, the custodian of Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem, has warned against such a move; and so have Saudi Arabia and France. But these are unlikely to figure in Mr Trump’s calculus.

The dangers in Mr Trump’ s plans for shifting are many. Most importantly, it legitimises the whole of Jerusalem as belonging to Israel, which is not the case as Palestine’s claim to East Jerusalem is yet to be settled. Since 1967, Israel has built dozens of settlements in East Jerusalem, all illegal according to international law, and a shift to Jerusalem would legitimise this.

Diplomatically, for Washington, it is a hare-brained idea because it takes away a chip from the US’ negotiating table with both Israel and Palestine .In other words, it weakens the prospects of a peace deal and erodes US’ clout in West Asia.

However, there is a sliver of hope that he might not go ahead with the shift, because Mr Trump is yet to deliver on any of his promises on ‘resolving’ the Israel-Palestine conflict.

West Asia is yet to recover from the effects of Islamic State’s terror, and is seeing heightened Saudi Arabia-Iran tensions which are pulling many nations into its vortex. Destabilising the delicate peace in Jerusalem is the last thing the world needs now.

First Published: Dec 05, 2017 19:15 IST

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