Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem has never been accepted by the international community. Fifty years ago, UN Security Council Resolution 242 demanded that Israel withdraw from the territories it occupied during the 1967 War, including East Jerusalem. The following year the Security Council passed a resolution demanding that the Israeli government stop expropriating Palestinian property in the eastern part of the city. A resolution in spring of 1980 condemned the construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and other occupied territories. Later that year, when Israel officially claimed all of Jerusalem, “complete and united,” as its capital, yet another resolution declared that claim “null and void,” and called on all countries with diplomatic missions in Jerusalem to withdraw them.
As a permanent member of the Security Council, the United States could have blocked any of these resolutions, but chose not to, despite its strong support for the state of Israel. While many U.S. presidents have promised during their campaigns to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Holy City and to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv, none has kept that promise once elected. They have all understood that, on this question at least, what makes for good domestic politics would make for bad foreign policy. It would violate decades’ worth of UN resolutions and thereby alienate many of our closest allies. More importantly, it would undermine whatever’s left of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
But Donald Trump is different. He doesn’t mind alienating a few allies now and then, and has always worried more about politics than policy. When it comes to the peace process, he is both ill-informed and overconfident. He promises that, with the help of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, he will succeed where everyone before him has failed, brokering what he calls the “ultimate deal” or “the deal of the century.” Back in May, during a visit to Washington by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, Trump remarked that such a deal is “frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years.” Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and God knows Trump is no angel.