Israel Policy Forum notes the strange timing of the Trump administration’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the existing consular building in Jerusalem on May 14 in order to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. While the Trump administration has made clear its determination to move the embassy, it has also repeatedly expressed its intention to​ soon​ introduce a peace initiative​ that will restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Given the Palestinians’ refusal to engage with the United States following President Trump’s December 6​th​ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced intention to move the embassy, actually moving the embassy before successfully getting the Palestinians to commit to a Trump-led peace process is at odds with the administration’s stated mission. It ​will ​only ensure​ ​continued Palestinian opposition to American efforts to mediate between the two sides and will doom the Trump peace initiative before it gets off the ground. While we support recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and acknowledge the symbolic significance of relocating the embassy, we believe that announcing the relocation date now is misguided.

If the administration is determined to move the embassy by May 14​th​, we urge it to take this opportunity to correct some of the mistakes it made with the original announcement in December. Specifically, we call on the administration to acknowledge Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel ​and simultaneously recognize Palestinian claim​s​ to East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state. Doing so would correct the historic injustice of nonrecognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital while providing a political horizon to Palestinians in support of a two-state solution. Otherwise, we fear that moving the embassy without any concurrent gesture to the Palestinian side will have the effect of making peace between the two sides even more elusive.