America’s embassy in Jerusalem – only as a city of peace

Everything possible must be done to ease daily life for all residents of the city and allow the two communities to develop within the urban space through cooperation.

A SIGN calls on US President Donald Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A SIGN calls on US President Donald Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Jerusalem is my home. I grew up in the city’s Katamon neighborhood and in my childhood there were numerous embassies, primarily of young African countries whose colorful names and flags enchanted me. I still recall a childhood picture, at the beginning of the 1980s, when one after another these flags came down, the armored cars disappeared and the buildings, built by wealthy Arab residents of Katamon in the 1930s and 1940s and on whose walls were marked previous episodes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stood silent.
I yearn for the day in which numerous embassies will open in Jerusalem, but only when it is a city of peace. In this city the American flag will fly over two embassies, the American embassy to Israel in west Jerusalem and the American embassy to Palestine in east Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, the capital of two peoples, will be an open, diverse and vibrant city, administered by separate institutions of the two peoples but open to all its residents and visitors, hosting numerous embassies, and enjoying physical, economic and cultural prosperity. For many this is a utopian vision, but it isn’t impossible. Both the United States of America and the State of Israel were founded thanks to the vision of men and women who dared to dream of utopia and one day, it is hoped, Palestine will thus be founded.
Moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in the current circumstances, in which there is both political stagnation and daily tension on the streets of the city, is incompatible with this vision.
It is a dangerous unilateral move which would violate international law and negate the essence of Jerusalem as the home of two peoples.
In what is the fiftieth anniversary of the annexation of east Jerusalem by Israel, it would be perceived as particularly provocative. In Jerusalem, more than elsewhere, Israelis and Palestinians share an urban space, and political decisions hold immediate ramifications for the daily life, wellbeing and security of residents of both sides.
In December 2016 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334, which once again declares that the Security Council “will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.” This resolution, later adopted by the foreign ministers of 70 countries, calls on both sides, the Israelis and Palestinians, to return to the negotiating table and do everything in their power to promote the sole viable and sustainable solution: that of two states.
The United States will continue to have a decisive role in mediating, guiding, and supporting the political process when it is restarted. The new administration has already announced the appointment of an envoy to the Middle East, as well as affirming its desire to assist the sides in resolving the conflict. The United States will find it exceptionally difficult to fulfill its pivotal role as a mediator effectively once it has moved its embassy to Jerusalem, in defiance of the position of the entire international community and clearly favoring one side over the other.
The unwillingness of democratic countries around the world to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel does not stem from denial of the Jewish people’s deep historic connection to the city. Rather, it is rooted in the principle that such recognition can be achieved only through an agreement between the two peoples which also ensures that the Palestinian bond to Jerusalem will be respected. Perhaps more than other countries, the US should categorically oppose conditions in which 40% of Jerusalem’s residents are ruled without their consent and without equal rights. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem, as the city is defined today by Israeli law, is a negation of the fundamental principle of the American Declaration of Independence, that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” a principle found also in the spirit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence and the Basic Laws of the country.
Administration of Jerusalem, in the absence of a political agreement but looking forward to one, must reflect the essence of Jerusalem as the present home and future capital of two peoples. Both peoples have profound existential, historical and symbolic connections to the city, and both will continue to live side by side in any future political constellation.
While this reality provides the backdrop for the ongoing friction in Jerusalem, it also constitutes the foundation for delicate balances that have enabled and continue to support the city’s capacity to function today. Strengthening these balances and nurturing a horizon of hope for all residents of the city are essential to securing daily life and sustaining the option of a sustainable future agreement. Until such an agreement is reached, unilateral steps likely to escalate tensions in the city must be avoided.
Everything possible must be done to ease daily life for all residents of the city and allow the two communities to develop within the urban space through cooperation with civil society and the national leaderships of both peoples. This city has known much loss, destruction and pain. What has been done cannot be undone, but we can and must choose for Jerusalem a different present and future.

The writer is the executive director of Ir Amim.