On December 6, 2017 President Trump made an announcement that the United States would be moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and from now on would recognize the city as Israel’s capital. This action has been discussed and debated for decades. Over 20 years ago, Congress passed a law to do the same, but every presidential administration since has chosen to use the waiver and continue recognizing Tel Aviv as the capital. This change signals a significant shift in United States’ Middle East policy and will have widespread consequences.
The State of Israel considers Jerusalem entirely its territory, after being won in the Six Day War. The Palestinian Authority believes it to be the capital of what should be their independent state. The majority of the international community refuses to pick a side and believes it should be a UN governed site for neutrality during negotiations that have been going on for years. Though the move is largely symbolic, the United States’ embassy moving to Jerusalem resolutely places the US behind the Israelis in any negotiation or peace talks. This shift in policy will bring vast diplomatic consequences and potentially increased security risk.
The move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will spark some resistance from Middle Eastern powers that back the Palestinian cause, even United States allies. Turkey has already threatened to break relations with Israel over the issue and Egypt will be soon to follow. Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, has long been a supporter of the Palestinian cause and this move could sour relations between Washington and Riyadh. There are many diplomatic leaders around the world that will view the move as provocative, but there will be little substantive change in policy towards the US from any power, just a souring of relations. The most significant impact is the increased security risk. The new embassy in particular will be at an extremely heightened risk of attack. Terrorist groups around the globe that support Palestine are likely to strike soon and it is guaranteed that terrorist attacks within Israel will see an uptick in frequency and scale for the coming months, potentially years.