Wednesday December 06, 2017

Trump's plan to move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem divides Israelis and Palestinians

Will a powerful move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem undermine the peace process or force momentum? (Pictured: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with U.S. President Donald Trump during his May visit to Israel.)

Will a powerful move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem undermine the peace process or force momentum? (Pictured: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with U.S. President Donald Trump during his May visit to Israel.) (Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images)

Listen 13:01

Story transcript

Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the United States will now officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.

The U.S. president also said he would direct the State Department to begin the process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

While Jerusalem is the seat of Israeli government, most countries keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.

The news is being welcomed by many Israeli Jews, and others around the world. But it's the hope of the Palestinian people that East Jerusalem would be the capital of a future Palestinian state. 

'He talked about the deal of the century in typical Trump-esque kind of hyperbole.' - Shimon Fogel

"I think fundamentally it's the recognition of the connection between the Jewish people and the City of Jerusalem," Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

The announcement gives Fogel a cautious optimism about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process's future, but says this is just one step in a process that still has to make many more.

USA-TRUMP/ISRAEL

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, is cautiously optimistic about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process's future. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

"It's not so much what President Trump announces today. It's how does that fit into a larger vision of how you move from chronic confrontation and conflict to a path of peace," he said.

"He talked about the deal of the century in typical Trump-esque kind of hyperbole."

"But I do think that the efforts of everybody who's been engaged over the last number of months has been towards a much more comprehensive and regional approach that is really going to deliver on stability and peace for the region more broadly, not just the narrow issue of Palestinian-Israeli relations."

The fate — and status — of the holy city is a delicate subject in the region, and closely connected to the prospects of peace and stability.

USA-TRUMP/ISRAEL

At a 2016 AIPAC conference, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump pledged he would move 'the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.' (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Trump's move is expected to face intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests.

Nayrouz Abu Hatoum, adjunct professor at Ryerson University, says it isn't clear what effect, if any, Trump's announcement will have on life in Jerusalem for either Israelis or Palestinians in the near future.

'Jerusalem itself have never been more divided, have never been more segregated. Even though Israelis celebrate 50 years of unification of the city.' - Nayrouz Abu Hatoum

"For Palestinians it's actually kind of a frustrating statement," says Hatoum.

"Defacto, the facts on the ground, Israel does actually control the military and police, and the administration does control ... the whole city."

Hatoum's most recent research, for example, looks at the neighbourhood of Kafr 'Aqab. While it's technically a part of East Jerusalem, it's separated from most of the city by the West Bank barrier.

Palestinians Dead End?

Nayrouz Abu Hatoum, adjunct professor at Ryerson University, says Donald Trump's announcement will largely be seen as a symbolic gesture. (Pictured: Trump shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank City of Bethlehem.) (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

"About a third of the Palestinian Jerusalemites living inside Jerusalem are actually living outside the walls that the Israeli constructed," she tells Tremonti.

"So Jerusalem itself have never been more divided, have never been more segregated. Even though Israelis celebrate 50 years of unification of the city."

Hatoum agrees with Fogel that Trump's pledge will largely be seen as a symbolic gesture.

"[It's] also a reminder of something ... the international community, and many Palestinians, and many people in the Arab world have been saying: That they are increasingly suspicious of the U.S role as a mediator in the negotiation between the Palestinians and the Israelis," Hatoum explains.

"Especially because Jerusalem and right-of-return of Palestinian refugees is often where the negotiations stop."


Listen to the full conversation above.


With files from the Associated Press. This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli and Susana Ferreira.