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Trump Risks Starting a New Intifada

President Trump at the Israel Museum. Jerusalem May 23, 2017 (Credit: U.S. Department of State)

The Trump administration has been signaling that the president may formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the coming days. There are already very negative reactions in the region to the suggestion that he would do this:

Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas has reportedly threatened a new intifada if the United States starts recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or moves its embassy to the holy city.

Although it seems as if the embassy will stay put for now, officials close to President Donald Trump revealed last week that he was considering declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, even though it was made clear to him that the move would endanger American diplomats in the area.

Mahmoud Abbas has also been voicing his strong opposition:

According to a spokesman, Abbas was holding a series of phone calls on Sunday with world leaders both to “explain the dangers of any decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem or recognise [Jerusalem] as Israel’s capital”.

“Any American step related to the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, or moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, represents a threat to the future of the peace process and is unacceptable for the Palestinians, Arabs and internationally,” Abbas told a group of visiting Arab lawmakers from Israel.

There is nothing to be gained for anyone by offering this recognition and something to be lost by almost everyone involved. Whatever symbolic value it may have for Israel will be quickly canceled out by the tangible costs that will follow because of the violence that it will predictably stir up. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is supposedly the “pro-Israel” position to take, yet the action would be very harmful to Israeli security and to its relationships with its regional neighbors. Americans would be put at greater risk in Israel and Palestine and throughout the region, and U.S. relations with almost all predominantly Muslim countries would be damaged in exchange for pandering to hard-liners here and in Israel. It would be yet another insulting slap in the face to the Palestinians and a possibly fatal blow to whatever remains of the “peace process.” One could scarcely ask for a more gratuitous, irresponsible gesture than this, so it makes sense that Trump is probably going to do it.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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