How President Trump could make the case for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem

Let us suppose that President Donald Trump decides to carry out his campaign promise and move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. What can he say in order to explain and justify his decision?

Whether it is deemed to be a wise move or not under present circumstances, President Trump should argue his case following the logic espoused by those who oppose his intended move:

“How do you foresee a future peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs? What are the boundaries that you would accept as legitimate between Israel and a future Palestinian state? Indeed, what are Israel’s legally binding boundaries at present?

“You contend that Israel within the 1967 lines, in other words, within the 1949 Armistice Lines, is legitimate, and anything beyond it is not, pending a peace agreement. Indeed, you stress that international law is on your side as it stipulates, through various United Nations resolutions, that any civilian construction by Israel beyond the 1967 frontiers is illegal.

“If that is so, and if you accept, as you claim, that Israeli-controlled territory prior to the Six Day War of June 1967 is legitimate, then you clearly understand that West Jerusalem is an integral part of what you accept as sovereign Israeli territory.

“When you argue your case against Israeli “settlements”, you include the West Bank and East Jerusalem as territories within which Israelis should not be allowed to live, nor indeed undertake any civilian construction of any kind. You never mention West Jerusalem as an area where Israelis must not be permitted to reside or build apartments.

“The line that you accept runs exactly where the Armistice Lines of 1949 between Israel and Jordan were drawn. West Jerusalem remained part of Israeli-controlled territory then. You now accept it as the basis for future negotiations.

“You don’t raise any objections to any Israeli construction project anywhere within pre-1967 Israeli-held territory, including West Jerusalem.

“According to the scenario you depict of a future peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, East Jerusalem and the West Bank would be part of a future Palestinian state. Israel would remain within its pre-1967 lines (the 1949 Armistice Lines), with some minor modifications entailed in agreed-upon land-swaps between the two sides.

“Now, regarding the US Embassy in Israel, you have no problem whatsoever that is located in Tel Aviv. I assume, following the logic of your argument as aforementioned, that you would raise no objection if the US Embassy were to be moved from Tel Aviv to, say, Haifa. Further, you would not have any legally-binding claim against a decision to move the US Embassy to Jaffa or Acre. After all, the three alternative locations I have just mentioned are within the boundaries you accept as legitimate Israeli sovereign territory.

“So, why on earth, would have any problem with a decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem?

“I could understand, again, following the logic of your argument, if you were to oppose a decision to move the US Embassy to East Jerusalem; but why West Jerusalem?

“You endorsed UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that condemned Israeli “settlements” in any territory beyond the boundaries that prevailed prior to the Six Day War of June 1967. The resolution concerned stipulates clearly and explicitly that all territories within the frontiers that existed before that war are legitimate Israeli land. Once again, that includes West Jerusalem. Did you raise any objections to that particular wording? Did you contend that you would accept the resolution save the implied reference to West Jerusalem?

“A decision on our part to move the US Embassy to West Jerusalem could not possibly contradict the wording of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that you have endorsed. Indeed, it could not possibly contradict your own oft-repeated stance on what constitutes legitimate Israeli territory.

“There is no way out: Either you have no logical basis to object to the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem or you should state clearly and unequivocally that the position you have been espousing in this regard has been disingenuous. Either you accept the logic of your argument or you don’t.”

About the Author
Yoav J. Tenembaum is a lecturer at the Diplomacy Studies Program, Tel Aviv University. He holds a doctorate in Modern History from Oxford University and a master's degree in International Relations from Cambridge University. He read for his B.A. in History at Tel Aviv University. Articles of his have been published in newspapers, magazines and journals in various countries.
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