Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel is a bold and controversial move that will be incredibly detrimental to the already precarious peace process between Israel and Palestine. Jerusalem unarguably lies at the heart of the Israel and Palestine conflict. Its religious significance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam makes it a contentious issue as both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their own. The US’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will inevitably have an impact on other states in the region as this move may go beyond the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.
Trump’s decision has sparked criticism worldwide because of what it explicitly symbolises, the destruction of any possibility that Palestine will eventually have a right to exist as a sovereign state. It arguably legitimises the notion that Israel is permitted to conduct mass settlements on Palestinian land and undermine the autonomy of the Palestinian people. Historically peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine have been long been problematic with Israel’s mass settlements in the West Bank and acquisition of Palestinian territories clearly indicating that Israel was not committed to a two-state solution. The US has acted as mediator during these peace negotiations and has previously emphasised a commitment towards the Oslo peace framework, however the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel sends a firm message that the US will stand with Israel and support its expansionist efforts.
The religious significance of Jerusalem cannot be underestimated, it holds sacred meaning to all three, Abrahamic religions. This spiritual connection to Jerusalem is why the 1967 UN partition plan for Palestine stated that Jerusalem should be administered by the UN trusteeship council. However despite repeated criticism from the international community, Israel as effectively taken full control of the city and violated international law in the process. Palestinians in Jerusalem already lack agency and access to the same rights as the Israelis and many fear that the US’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital will subject them to further discrimination.
The decision has also sparked outcry from other states in the Middle East because of how important Jerusalem is to the Muslim world. The US’s behaviour will shake an already turbulent region and damage diplomatic relations between the US and states like Jordan for instance who reacted in protest when the decision was announced.
Fundamentally this marks a major turning point in the relationship between the US and the Middle East. Trump’s tactless behaviour will alienate the region and undermine US hegemony and its efforts to play the role of the peacemaker.