Why President Trump\'s Jerusalem Decision Could Derail Middle East Peace Talks

Even so, Trump’s team vowed to move forward on an announcement that Vice President Mike Pence has been laying the groundwork for. In a speech in New York last week, Pence said the decision to move the Embassy was a priority for Trump and Pence aides said the vice president’s statement was not an accident. “For the past 20 years, Congress and successive administrations have expressed a willingness to move our Embassy, as we speak, President Donald Trump is actively considering when and how to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Pence said.

Pence, one of the most prominent Christians in the country, plans to visit Israel in December. He announced plans to visit the region last month at a dinner for a group that advocates for Christians in the Middle East. He also announced that Trump had decided to move funding for persecuted religious minorities from the U.N. to faith-based and nonprofit organizations through the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 requires the president to sign a waiver every six months to keep the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv and not move it to Jerusalem. Every president since the law was enacted has opted to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv, citing national security interests. But last Friday’s deadline came and went without action from Trump. Administration officials say Trump will address that in remarks slated for Wednesday.

The potential move is unlikely to be helpful for the broader goal of bringing peace to the region. By keeping the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, the thinking went inside administrations from both parties, it allowed Jerusalem’s control to be part of peace negotiations. The U.S. decision to locate its Israeli diplomatic base in Jerusalem would all but declare the city would be Israel’s to control in any two-state resolution — and perhaps makes a deal between Israelis and Palestinians all the more difficult to strike.

Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem during his presidential campaign. The promise was critical to his support among white evangelicals, who also celebrated Trump’s promises to defund Planned Parenthood and nominate a conservative justiceto the Supreme Court.

Since his inauguration, conservative Christian leaders have pressed Trump to move the embassy. In May, dozens of social conservatives affiliated with the American Christian Leaders for Israel signed a letter urging him to not sign the waiver. When Trump signed it, they remained optimistic. They sent another letter days before the deadline for the second waiver.

The move came days after Trump shared a string of three anti-Muslim videos on Twitter from a far-right activist from England. The White House said that the videos, which purport to show Muslims behaving violently, started a conversation even if they were not authentic. The British Prime Minister said Trump was wrong to have shared them in the first place. White House aides said the authenticity and veracity were inconsequential.

Trump is approaching the end of his first year in office and, especially lately, has been sensitive about how much remains on his to-do list. Movement on the Middle East is a victory he can tout, although it’s not clear that the decision has any immediate impact on Americans. With a tax package under consideration in Congress, a government funding deadline approaching next week and North Korea again rattling its sabers, the diplomatic address is one of the few things on the President’s agenda firmly under his control.

Past presidents from both parties, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have said they would move the Embassy to Jerusalem but they have balked. U.S. and international advisers have warned the Presidents that the relocation could endanger any future peace talks, especially if it is seen as boxing the Palestinians out of Jerusalem, a city central to the people of Jewish, Christian and Muslim backgrounds and their histories.

The U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has told interviewers that it is a question of when, not if, the Embassy will move. That, coupled with his at-time-dismissive rhetoric about Palestinian concerns, has prompted some observers to question if the United States would continue to push for a peace deal in the region. A White House deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, told reporters on Monday something similar on Air Force One: “The President has been clear on this issue from the get-go that it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when. No action will be taken on the waiver today and we will share a decision on the waiver in the coming days.”

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is the President’s son-in-law, has been pushing hard to restart peace talks in the region. Kushner, who is close to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, has visited the region several times with other White House aides to lay the groundwork for talks between Israelis and Palestinians. He, too, is viewed suspiciously by the Palestinians even though he has been a voice against moving the Embassy because of its fraught politics.

In effect handing Jerusalem to Israel, Trump is signaling that the city’s fate will not be part of negotiations and the Palestinians will have to look elsewhere for their state, in places like the West Bank. It also sends a provocative slight against Muslims, for whom their third holiest site in in the city, as well as Christians who believe Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection took place there. In wading into the tangle of Middle East diplomacy in this way, the President is betting his supporters at home will cheer louder than those in the regions may groan.

— With reporting by Tessa Berenson

Source : https://www.yahoo.com/news/why-president-trump-apos-jerusalem-193200092.html

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