Trump’s Jerusalem declaration will be disastrous for all sides

By BENTLEY ADDISON | December 7, 2017

am Jewish. It’s an identity and a status that’s immeasurably important to me, and it’s the source of my strong ties to Israel. In Jewish custom, twice each year, at the conclusion of the Passover Seder and at the conclusion of Yom Kippur Ne’ilah services, we say as a group, “le-shanah ha-ba’ah bi-Yerushalayim,” or “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem is the holiest city in the Jewish religion, and I and most Jews believe that the eventual capital of Israel must be in Jerusalem. However, historical developments make it extremely difficult to simply state that the embassy should be moved. A little historical background on the status of this holy city throughout the conflict is in order.

Even before Israel’s independence, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in the city of Jerusalem in the British Mandate of Palestine, formed after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Conflict was unavoidable, as Jews fought for the independence of their own state, and Christian and Muslim Arabs fought to keep land they’d inhabited for centuries. (Note: There was also a sizable Jewish population in the region for centuries.)

A United Nations-backed partition plan was proposed in 1947, calling for the creation of independent Jewish and Palestinian states in the region, with a “Special International Regime” to be created to control Jerusalem.

As is evident from the current state of affairs, this plan was never implemented. The government of Israel accepted the plan, while Palestinian representatives summarily rejected it. Subsequent wars led to Israel’s annexation of West Jerusalem, while Jordan occupied the eastern portion of the city.

According to a New York Times piece published on Tuesday, this uneasy division remained in effect until the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel emerged victorious against a number of Arab nations, taking control of, among other parcels of land, the formerly Jordanian-occupied East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s rhetorical significance also increased during this period, with Columbia University Arab Studies professor Rashid Khalidi stating, “Jerusalem became the center of a cult-like devotion that had not really existed previously.” In 1980, “Jerusalem, complete and united” was officially named the capital of Israel by the Israeli Knesset (Parliament), despite the fact that East Jerusalem has still not been formally annexed.

On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump made a historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and recommended that the United States Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Despite my belief that, one day, in an eventual two-state solution, Israel’s capital will be in Jerusalem, this is a disastrous move that will have both long and short-term negative effects.

An important part of many, but not all American Jews’ college experiences is participation in the Birthright program, which provides subsidized trips to Israel for students with at least one Jewish grandparent. Many of these trips take place over winter break, with 25,000 participants expected this year, according to the magazine Forward.

Hopkins Hillel is itself sending a delegation of students on the trip in about a month. This move by the Trump administration will seriously destabilize the region and will likely cause violence and terror in the area, endangering many American tourists as well as Israelis and Palestinians.

For example, Hamas, a militant group widely considered as terrorist in nature, called for three “days of rage” following Trump’s announcement, according to an Al Jazeera article published on Wednesday. While American tourists are on the whole safer than Israelis and Palestinians, if nothing else, Trump’s administration should care about the negative public opinion that will likely follow from his decision, which could be seen as endangering young Americans.

However, the long-term effects of Trump’s plan are perhaps even more glaring. First, and perhaps most significantly, this move signals to the state of Israel that the United States will not waver in its support of Israel and its government, despite human rights violations, home demolitions and occupation rampant in the West Bank and other occupied Palestinian Territories.

This move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital leads to Palestinian unwillingness to compromise, which is a vital component of a future two-state solution. In fact, Chief Palestinian Peace Negotiator Saeb Erekat stated after Trump’s declaration, “President Trump has delivered a message to the Palestinian people: the two-state solution is over.

Now is the time to transform the struggle for one-state with equal rights for everyone living in historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.” Such rhetoric is dangerous, further minimizes the prospect of a two-state solution (the only hope for peace and self-determination) and stems directly from Trump’s ill-thought statement.

I believe that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel — one day. This move was made far earlier than it should have been. The sanctity of Jerusalem to all parties involved, as well as the importance placed upon the city in either side’s rhetoric, means that small steps must be taken until the city can be negotiated in the final steps of crafting a two-state solution.

Bentley Addison is a freshman from Franklin Township, N.J. He is majoring in history and molecular and cellular biology.

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