The struggle between Israel and the Palestinian people has not subsided in decades, with both nations being unable to come to a mutually beneficial resolution. While civilian protests initiated by Palestinian people continue, so do international discussions aimed at establishing peace in the region (Gelvin, 2014). In 2017, the current President of the U.S., Donald Trump, announced that Jerusalem would be officially accepted as Israel’s capital (Trump, 2017).
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Another piece of news quickly followed this decision – Jerusalem would be the newly chosen location for the U.S. embassy in Israel. This decision to move the diplomatic mission from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has sparked peaceful and violent protests from both European and Arabic countries (Usher, 2018). It is unclear what the long-term consequences of the conflict between the two countries will be after this relocation.
However, the currently perceived consequences lie in the destabilization of the already strained relationship between Palestinians and Israelis. It is possible that the struggle for land and cultural identity of Palestinians will escalate with the withdrawal of U.S. help and apparent revocation of a neutral position.
The tensions between Palestinians and Israelis first started in the early twentieth century when many Israelis fled other countries to return to their place of origin. This area, which is now considered the country of Israel, was occupied by Palestinians who also claimed the territory as their rightful home, although it was also under the rule of the British (Shafir, 2017). Trying to reclaim the region, both nations entered into a war.
As a result, the country of Israel was formed, declaring its independence from British rule. It should be noted that Israel was founded as a Jewish state, meaning that the religion of the nation was closely tied to the identity and policies of the country (Gelvin, 2014). Palestinians, having different, mostly Muslim, beliefs were consequently placed in a disadvantageous position. Their settlements and cities were destroyed, and many Palestinians had to move out of their homes and were only left with the option of occupying various places in the Gaza belt (Shafir, 2017). The tensions between the nations did not end after the war and continued to impact the land.
Over the years, Palestinians have continued to speak against the “Israeli occupation” of their territories. Israeli people, on the other hand, argue that the land was their rightful property due to historical reasons. Another point of tension is the particular view of Jerusalem. Israel was established in 1948, and the territorial rights of the Palestinians continue to shrink under the influence of the country’s government. Moreover, Jerusalem was named the new capital of the Jewish state.
Palestinians, on the other hand, continue to view East Jerusalem as the only possible capital of their future state – Palestine. Here, the conflict is rooted in each nation’s culture, religion, and history. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam consider Jerusalem as the location of the holiest of places in their religions, while Palestinians rely on the 1949 Armistice Agreements, arguing for their right to own the territory of East Jerusalem. Nonetheless, this territory is occupied and claimed by Israel.
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Embassy Relocation: History, Decisions, Outcomes
The relationships between the two nations have been monitored by the U.S. for many decades. Historically, the Western state has changed its position on Jerusalem with different administrations. In the 1990s, the U.S. first acknowledged Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital. Subsequently, in 1995, the Jerusalem Embassy Act reserved Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel that should stay undivided and whole. This decision, however, did not result in the U.S. placing its embassy in Jerusalem. Instead, Tel Aviv was chosen to be the location of the diplomatic mission – the second largest city is removed from the area of the central conflict.
In December 2017, President Trump announced that the embassy would be moved to Jerusalem. In the official statement, he argued that this decision was based solely on the logic of previous choices and the current laws of Israel. Trump also outlined the U.S. mission of peace and expressed his belief in the unification of the country under the new embassy. The news was met with protests from Palestinians and other world nations who argued that East Jerusalem and other territories of the West Bank were in the state of Israeli military occupation.
On the day of the embassy’s opening, Palestinians initiated a protest which resulted in one of the most devastating events in the Palestine-Israel conflict. According to Palestinian reports, around 60 people died as a result of Israeli actions to stop the protests (Holmes & Balousha, 2018). It was noted that Israelis used lethal force without having sufficient reasons to do so, although the United Nations Security Council also warned Hamas (Gaza’s military rulers) against inciting violence (“Security Council calls for calm,” 2018). Overall, the opening day largely destabilized the area and resulted in hundreds of people being injured.
Thus, one can see the impact that the current U.S. administration’s decision had on the relationship between Israel and Palestine. In his official proclamation, Trump (2017) highlighted the peaceful mission that the U.S. was hoping to further with this relocation. Usher (2018), however, argues that the embassy in Jerusalem cannot be interpreted as a benevolent action, citing the President’s words about the violence that ensued on the Gaza border.
The author hypothesizes that an uprising may emerge as a response to the strain in international relationships this move has created. Multiple world leaders and political representatives also view the relocation as a catalyst for increasing human rights violations (“World leaders react,” 2018). They highlight the two-state solution as the only viable option for resolving the conflict and ending territorial disputes.
The Future of the Conflict
One might argue that the relocation of the U.S. embassy is not the only action that will considerably affect the conflict. The support of the Palestinian people by the U.S. has also reduced in scope, now being managed only by a small office in the embassy (Usher, 2018). This reduction of support is likely to further destabilize the already tense relationship. As UH officials note, the peaceful uprising of Palestinians may be utilized by Hamas who may attempt to turn it into a violent military movement. While many world governments and UN officials call for finding a peaceful solution, the framing of the problem in Israel becomes more and more aggressive (“World leaders react,” 2018). Therefore, one may expect the escalation of protests and the rising rates of violence from both sides.
President Trump explained that the decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was an overdue logical step of the state’s earlier statements. This action, however, sparked a debate among all nations about the future of the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Historical analysis shows that the influence of Jewish Israeli people is growing, while Palestinians face more and more problems every day. The protest against the new embassy turned into a tragedy for Palestinians and polarized Middle Eastern countries and the U.S. It is difficult to predict as to what specific future events will occur due to the relocation. However, what is clear is that this decision has greatly aggravated the struggle and led to an increase in militarization in an already volatile and tense region.
Gelvin, J. L. (2014). The Israel-Palestine conflict: One hundred years of war (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Holmes, O., & Balousha, H. (2018). Global protests grow after Israeli killing of Palestinian demonstrators. The Guardian. Web.
Shafir, G. (2017). A half century of occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the world’s most intractable conflict. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Usher, B. P. (2018). Jerusalem embassy: Why Trump’s move was not about peace. BBC News. Web.
World leaders react to US embassy relocation to Jerusalem. (2018). Al Jazeera. Web.