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American Masochism: Moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

posted on: Feb 1, 2017

American Masochism: Moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
The US Embassy building in Tel Aviv. (Credit: Getty/Jack Guez)

BY: Richard Habib/Ambassador Blogger

Recently, major American news organizations have characterized President Trump’s initiative to relocate the United States embassy from Tel Aviv (in Israel proper) to Jerusalem as “controversial” because the city is recognized by the entire world, including the United States, as “occupied” territory.

Use of the word “controversial” understates the potential for explosive repercussions that would likely ensue as a result of the proposed embassy move and fails to acknowledge well known concerns that a move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to any part of Jerusalem would represent a violation of the historical U.S. position on the matter.  Moreover, the move would serve as a catalyst for increased threats to the security of the United States and its citizens.

Logic and self-interest dictates that, from an American point of view, the only pertinent question for considering the embassy move would be: What favorable benefit to the government and people of the United States would result by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

The short answer to this question is that a move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would have no beneficial impact to the United States or its citizens.  

It would not represent a financial gain for the United States and its citizens. A recent NBC News report states the cost to build the embassy in Jerusalem with state-of-the-art security measures, would likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

It would not be seen as a constructive initiative made by the United States in its role as the leader of the free world. At a recent European conference addressing a resolution of the Palestinian-Israel dispute, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said a move of the U.S embassy would be a provocative act that would result in “serious consequences on the ground

It would not decrease tensions in a region of the world already inflamed and shattered by the U.S. invasion and destruction of the sovereign nation of Iraq, and Syria’s state of civil devastation and war with ISIL. Peter Beaumont writing in The Guardian just a few weeks ago cites experts who believe the move would provoke “violent chaos.”  

It would not enhance the reputation of the United States as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians. The credibility of the United States to be an agent of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians has been in doubt for quite some time. So a move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would reinforce Palestinian claims of an American bias in favor of Israel.

On the contrary, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be irresponsible, dangerous, and a “major break” with U.S. policy that was declared at the time the Israeli state was created in 1949 and reaffirmed by the United States after Israel’s subsequent military occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967.

American Masochism: Moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
A man takes a picture of a giant banner on a building congratulating U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Jerusalem, January 20, 2017 REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

With its significance to three major world religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – the status of Jerusalem is an issue that goes beyond the negotiating arena of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. According to Ilan Goldenberg, a Senior Fellow and Director at the Center for a New American Security, a U.S. move to change the status of Jerusalem “has religious overtones that could set off violence and targeting of American diplomatic facilities across the region. Referring back to the financial cost of physically constructing a new embassy, the financial impact to deal with subsequent security issues associated with the move could have an enormous negative impact on the American taxpayer. Is the U.S. interested and prepared to send ground troops to protect the new embassy once construction is completed?

Even those proposing such a move cannot articulate a benefit to American citizenry. That’s because the only party set to gain from such a move would be the government of Israel and its fanatic lobbyists in the United States who are bound and determined to “create facts” – thousands of miles away from the heartland of America – that are difficult if not impossible to reverse. In their view, the financial impact and risk to the national security of the American people are expendable; their only objective is to cement Israel’s authority for colonization of Palestinian territory.

With the multitude of issues currently facing the United States it may be difficult for some to comprehend why President Trump chose to embrace this embassy move at the outset of his presidency.  The simple explanation is that the new President does not have the intelligence, courage or capacity to reconcile American national security interests with domestic political considerations.