Trump Abandons Precedent in Israel, Endangers Citizens

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All Americans, Jewish or otherwise, should oppose Trump’s decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The truth is, Trump is only invested in Jews because he thinks the holy city of Jerusalem is his ticket to a second presidential term.

It should come as no surprise that Trump only seeks to serve himself and his self-interest. He banned Muslims from seven countries from entering the U.S., claiming fear of terrorism, but did not include Saudi Arabia, the country where some 9/11 hijackers were citizens, on that list, because he did not want to compromise his business relations with Saudi Arabia — from whom he had a received a $100-million check months before. Similarly, Trump and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee are no strange bedfellows — he has even been named “the most pro-Israel president” by the most circulated daily Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom — but he has done virtually nothing to combat the daily injustices that Jews, especially Jews of color, face in America. According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. “have jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017 … particularly since November [2016]” — the same month Trump became president.

The entire world is waiting to see how Trump’s decision to relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will unfold. The issue is especially pertinent to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, who all have ties to Jerusalem as a holy site. It is also pertinent to my home country, Jordan, since our king, His Majesty King Abdullah II, is the custodian of East Jerusalem. But you should care too if you are American or live in America, even if you do not share any of those three religious identities.

Now that you know that I am Arab, I feel the need to clarify one thing. My anger and concern over Trump’s decision does not stem from the likelihood that Israel’s claim on Jerusalem will now outweigh Palestine’s. Rather, it stems from the fact that Donald Trump is in no position to make that decision.

While Trump is the president of the U.S. — a significant player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — his role should be to remain as unbiased as possible. The relocation of the embassy removes any pretense of impartiality. Trump does not have the authority nor the qualification to determine another state’s capital, or to ignore the controversial religious and political history of Jerusalem — one of the most important religious sites in the Middle East. In fact, this is the same kind of politicization that Trump accused UNESCO of when it declared the Old City of Hebron a Palestinian Heritage Site back in June. So I am not arguing whether Israel or Palestine has a greater claim to Jerusalem, but simply that Donald Trump cannot and should not make that decision.

So what does Trump hope to achieve by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Your first instinct may be to think that his goal is to garner more support from AIPAC, but, after all, Trump is a businessman and not a politician — his true power comes from his economic, not political, success. More support from AIPAC does mean more money, but Trump does not need money. What he really needs is political capital, not among American citizens, but their elected officials in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. And since the idea of relocation has received overwhelming bipartisan support since Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, Trump’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a politically expedient move.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by a sweeping majority in both Houses, called for the “relocation of the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem,” thereby proposing to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The relocation was to be complete by May 31, 1999, and at least a quarter billion dollars were allocated for the construction and maintenance of the embassy’s buildings and property.

However, the act has been challenged and waived by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama because, according to the United States Constitution, the executive branch is the sole conductor of foreign policy, and the legislative branch may only serve as an advisor on foreign policy issues. Beyond these constitutional concerns, past presidents have waived the act to avoid taking an explicitly biased stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so as not to hamper decades-long efforts toward peace in the region.

Trump’s decision has implications both in terms of the precedent that it establishes and its consequences for American citizens. For the President of the United States to concede and submit to Congress’ foreign policy ambitions is a blow to democracy’s face, as well as to the values of and ideals of the American Revolution. Another consequence is the fueling of anti-American sentiment that will only lead to more citizens being victims of terrorist attacks — outcomes that Trump and his political elite do not have to worry about.

If you are American, Jewish or not, it is absolutely imperative that you show opposition to Trump’s recklessness. Trump has demonstrated time and again that he has no interests but his own at heart, and this decision reinforces his abject insensitivity and willingness to put others in harm’s way.

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