Last week, the United States’ President Donald Trump made history – yet again – by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This decision had the effect of an earthquake in international politics, but the European Union will not budge.
Israel and the United States have been close friends for a very long time. According to Michael Koplow, an analyst at the Israel Policy Forum, this is due to intelligence sharing and ideological unity between the two countries, thus giving the United States a good understanding of Middle East affairs, and giving a great ally to Israel. They received great aid from the United States (more than half of its foreign military help in 2015), mostly financial but weapons as well – which have then been used against Palestinians.
However, in spite of their close relationship, the United States have chosen to steer away – at least directly – from the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Which is why Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem took by surprise the entire world. By recognising it as the capital, it also means that the US Embassy is going to be moved from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.
This decision had actually already been agreed by the US Congress in 1995, but each President since then had not put it into place, by fear of international diplomatic reaction. Nonetheless, Trump has the habit of talking before acting, therefore deferring the construction of the Embassy for six months by signing the same waiver that precedent Presidents have. Moreover, he did not specify if the embassy should be constructed in Eastern or Western Jerusalem, as it would not have the same implications. For now, its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital comes as a shock, but he seems to be taking some precautions, thus buying Israel time in negotiations, and leaving an “emergency exit door” for the US.
In light of these events, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, made a statement at a news conference in Brussels this Monday, stating that an official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would bring peace to the region. Moreover, he stated that an agreement would take place in the future, and that he believes that “all or most EU countries will move their Embassies to Jerusalem”.
However, this belief is clearly not shared by most European countries, nor by the European Union itself. Frederica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said that “he can keep his expectations for others because, from the European Union member states’ side, this move will not come”. She then recalled what the institutions and member states’ official stance was regarding the situation: “We believe that the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states with Jerusalem as the capital of both, the state of Israel and the state of Palestine”. Finally, according to her, this might provoke an escalation of violence; France’s President Macron shared the same opinion, when on Sunday he said that this move was a “threat to peace”.
The question of whether or not the United States’ stance might have real implications on international relations and on the Israeli-Palestine conflict still remains unanswered. Real actions still have to be undertook, but the growing different positioning within the European Union (especially with Hungary) might also put the EU’s unity in danger, therefore giving the Israeli and US positions an advantage.
Carolina Duarte de Jesus
For further information:
BARIGAZZI Jacopo, “EU dismisses Netanyahu’s Jerusalem prediction”, Politico, 2017, [consulted online on 12/11/2017]. http://www.politico.eu
LOCKIE Alex, “Here’s why the US and Israel are such close allies”, Business Insider UK, 2017, [consulted online on 12/11/2017]. http://uk.businessinsider.com
VOMIERO Jessica, “What does Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital mean for the city’s status?”, Global News, 2017, [consulted online on 12/11/2017]. http://www.globalnews.ca