Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem: ‘World War III’ or a Simple Reality Check?

The incoming Donald Trump administration’s stated intention to move America’s Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been met with Palestinian opposition so vehement that one commentator describes the reaction as “making it look as if World War III will erupt.” But experts explain that such Palestinian threats are common, and that the proposed embassy move isn’t the massive policy change that it’s being made out to be. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would mark both a shift in longstanding U.S. policy and recognition of Israel’s full sovereignty in its contested capital. President-elect Trump has also drawn impassioned reactions to his appointment of a pro-settlement ambassador to Israel, his close friend and adviser David Friedman, a bankruptcy attorney. Friedman, who speaks Hebrew fluently, recently served as president of the American Friends of Beit El, helping to raise millions of dollars for the large Beit El settlement in Samaria—including a $10,000 donation in 2003 from Donald Trump. Upon being named ambassador, Friedman said he intended to “strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region,” adding that he looked forward “to doing this from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.” Yet the move has been panned by the Palestinian Authority, which has insisted—along with many sympathetic members of the international community—that Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is an issue that should be reserved for final-status negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat recently warned that moving the embassy could effectively “destroy the peace process,” and threatened that the move would send the region into a “path of chaos, lawlessness and extremism.”



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