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Editorial: U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could spark turmoil

  • December 8, 2017
  • , The Japan News , 8:00 p.m.
  • English Press

A question mark now hangs over the United States’ basic approach of constructively mediating for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It appears inevitable that trust in U.S. diplomatic policies will decline and the Middle East will fall into further turmoil.


U.S. President Donald Trump has officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and instructed the State Department to make preparations to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As one reason for his decision, Trump said Jerusalem is the home of the Israeli government and parliament, so the city functions as a capital.


This view differs significantly from the common perception shared by the international community. Trump’s decision is difficult to understand.

During the Third Arab-Israeli War in 1967, Israel expanded areas of land under its control. It occupied East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, and declared that the entire area including West Jerusalem was Israel’s “indivisible capital.”


The Palestinian Authority has positioned East Jerusalem as its “future capital.” Judaism, Islam and Christianity have sacred sites concentrated in the Old City. Possession of Jerusalem is a complex problem involving religion.


Japan and other governments around the world take the neutral position that the fate of Jerusalem should be resolved through negotiations between the parties involved. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was quite right to reiterate that the government stood behind this principle. Nations have placed their embassies in Tel Aviv for the purpose of avoiding any impediment to peace in the region.


This is the same reason why, even after the U.S. Congress adopted a law in 1995 that urged the federal government to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem, successive presidents have delayed carrying out this step.


Face up to grave responsibility


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lobbed stinging criticism at Trump for his sudden decision, saying it would not only undermine the peace process but also destabilize the region. Large protests were held in the Gaza autonomous region, and leaders of Arab nations also widely condemned the move.


Foreign Minister Taro Kono is making arrangements to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories late this month. The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting over the U.S. decision. Hopefully this will help calm the situation.


Trump emphasized that the United States remains committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Can the United States really act as a mediator when it has blatantly shown such a pro-Israel position? Resuming negotiations that have stalled since 2014 has become that much more difficult.


During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Trump pledged he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Trump seems to be aiming to appeal to his supporters by turning this pledge into reality. It also cannot be denied that this was intended to deflect public attention from suspicions of collusion between members of Trump’s circle and Russia.


It is worrying that the State Department has been unable to play a role in halting the United States’ inward-looking diplomatic policies.


Washington’s Middle East strategy has ramifications for energy security and the global economy. The U.S. administration must recognize this grave responsibility.

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