A general view of Jerusalem shows the Dome of the Rock, located in Jerusalem's Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount December 6, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
When US President Donald Trump announced his intention to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it was obviously going to cause diplomatic waves over a symbolic gesture that I found unnecessary. Though the embassy did not need to move; a policy change was needed.
It had previously been well established that international recognition of Jerusalem’s status would only come pending a final Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
In line with that position, UN Security Council resolution 478 bans housing diplomatic missions in the city. There is a significant problem with this position, though.
While the American Embassy in Tel Aviv housed the headquarters of the US diplomatic mission to Israel, it is not the only American diplomatic unit in the region. The United States also has a separate delegation that administers relations with the Palestinian Authority.
The American delegation to the Palestinian Authority has long been based in Jerusalem, as have those of many other countries.
It is hard to view this as balanced, especially in the cases of countries that have strongly opposed the American Embassy’s move. British Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly voiced such opposition. In December she issued a statement saying, “We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement. We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it… Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states.”
The statement bore no mention of the British delegation to the Palestinian Authority already located in Jerusalem.
Though May went on to invoke, “relevant Security Council resolutions,” the British policy, as well as those of several other countries, are also clear violations of resolution 478 that go completely ignored, while the Trump Administration’s position has been widely criticized around the world.
To add insult to injury, several countries’ delegations to the Palestinians are housed in West Jerusalem, including those of several European countries in particular, such as France, Italy and Greece.
It is commonly presumed that a prospective Israeli-Palestinian agreement will divide the city roughly as it had been prior to the 1967 Six-Day War, with certain adjustments. It is assumed that East Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian control before the war, will serve as the Palestinian capital and that Israel will retain West Jerusalem, as it had prior to the war.
The Middle East is a highly volatile region. Steps that may be interpreted as unnecessarily interfering in areas of conflict should be avoided. But if the locations of diplomatic offices are to be considered expressions of how various countries and other diplomatic bodies believe the region should be divided, or as abstentions on the highly controversial matter, then that must be reflected both with respect to delegations to Israel and regarding those to the Palestinian Authority.
The relocation of the American Embassy did not prejudice Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
It remedied a prejudice through one of the only two options available for doing so. Countries that house delegations to the Palestinians in Jerusalem must choose – either both the delegations to the Palestinian Authority and those to Israel must be in Jerusalem, or neither of them should be. Those who are not yet ready to recognize any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should remember that the Palestinian capital is Ramallah.
In the meantime, it appears that many world leaders have more regard for Palestinian sentiments than for Jewish ones.The writer lives in Jerusalem. Previous columns of his have appeared in media outlets in both the US and Israel.
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