Section: Global Kenyon

Global Kenyon: Trump to move Israeli embassy

Global Kenyon is the Collegian’s recurring international news feature. Because these pieces will be short, we hope they will inspire readers to conduct research about the global world on their own.

President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Dec. 6 in a move that he called “a recognition of reality.” This declaration marks a reversal of seven decades of American foreign policy, according to the New York Times. Historically, the U.S. government avoided suggesting what should happen to Jerusalem, a holy city for Jews, Muslims and Christians alike.

The status of Jerusalem is a point of significant tension between Palestinians and Israelis, with both groups claiming religious, historical and political rights to the land. Trump’s declaration is the first step in a plan to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a move that is widely celebrated among Israelis and derided among Arab leaders, including President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas said the decision would have dangerous consequences, according to a Dec. 6 Al Jazeera article.

“I think [President Trump] is creating more instability in an unstable area,” Professor of Religious Studies Miriam Dean-Otting said. After the announcement, demonstrations broke out in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory. Residents of Palestinian city Bethlehem switched off the city’s Christmas tree lights in protest of the declaration, according to Dec. 6 articles from Reuters and Al Jazeera.

Professor of Political Science Fred Baumann predicts some immediate volatility in the region, but he believes Trump’s decision could aid the peace process. “When you recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — which it obviously is and has been since 1948 [the year of Israel’s inception] — what you’re doing is you’re telling the Arabs, in particular the Palestinians, ‘The train is leaving. If you want to get something, now is the time to make a deal,’” Baumann said.

In 1947, the United Nations created a partition plan that designated Jerusalem as an “international city.” Though there have been several violent wars and failed peace negotiations since this designation, Jerusalem has retained its ambiguous place under international law, according to a Dec. 6 NPR article.

Megan Carr ’18, an Islamic civilization and cultures concentrator, said Jerusalem’s ambiguous place as an international protectorate gave people a sense of hope in a peaceful future —  a hope that she feels is now lost.

Trump has often touted the goal of peace in the Middle East, but has not released a comprehensive plan to achieve a resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and it has been the religious center of the Jewish people for thousands of years,” President of Kenyon Students for Israel Ben Reingold ’20 said. “However, I would have preferred if the Trump administration had outlined a peace plan before announcing this move.”

Trump’s rhetoric echoes declarations made by far-right Israeli leaders who frequently assert Jerusalem’s position as Israel’s “rightful” capital.

“The most powerful nation in the world just basically reinforced the position of the far right-wing in Israel, which is that, ‘There’s no such thing as the Palestinian people, no such thing as a Palestinian nation,’” Professor of Religious Studies Vernon Schubel said. “​It should be obvious that if one is​ Palestinian, this would be really painful. This would hurt.”

Dean-Otting hopes Americans who care about the conflict will hit the books. “The most important thing that Americans can do is to read widely and to listen to as many different voices on this as possible,” Dean-Otting said.


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