Three Reasons Not to Move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

Three Reasons Not to Move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

Since Congress mandated the American embassy relocate to Jerusalem in 1995, every US president has invoked an executive waiver stating that such a move is not in America’s national interest.

To be clear: opposition to the US embassy in Jerusalem is not to deny Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Rather, keeping the American embassy in Tel Aviv is a strong symbolic statement in support of a peaceful, mutually agreed resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Currently, no country has its embassy in Jerusalem. The last two nations to quit Jerusalem were Costa Rica and El Salvador, which relocated their embassies to Tel Aviv in 2006.

But why?

· The Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) prohibits countries from annexing territories conquered in war. The UN Security Council therefore ruled that the annexation of East Jerusalem was illegal under international law (resolutions 478 and 497 respectively), and is not recognized by the international community.

· The international community recognizes that the final status of Jerusalem will be determined in direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Both sides want Jerusalem as their capital.

Three main reasons to oppose moving the embassy to Jerusalem:

First, by moving its embassy to Jerusalem, the U.S. will be defying international law.

But who cares about International Law or the UN Security Council resolution? They have no teeth.

Think of the consequences: much of international law was codified in response to Nazi atrocities during World War II and designed to prevent history from repeating itself. The Fourth Geneva Convention, for example, was adopted in August 1949 and designed to govern the treatment of civilians during wartime, including hostages, diplomats, spies, bystanders and civilians in territory under military occupation. The convention outlaws torture, collective punishment and the resettlement by an occupying power of its own civilians on territory under its military control. If we in the U.S. defy international law and allow Israel to trash it – how can we justify sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea? Consider if a country established a consulate in Crimea?

Second, by moving the embassy the U.S. will disqualify itself as a fair broker or mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It will be explicitly predetermining the outcome of negotiations while taking an explicit pro-Israeli stance. Moving the embassy will prejudge the permanent status issue of Jerusalem, in direct violation of the Oslo Accords, which state: “It was understood that several issues were postponed to permanent status negotiations, including: Jerusalem…”

Finally, moving the embassy could ignite an explosion of violence. As Danny Seidemann puts it “The fact is, we have never witnessed a geopolitical move as potentially shocking and infuriating to the Palestinian sector as moving the embassy. Such a move will tell the Palestinians: “Abandon hope. Political processes – negotiations, diplomacy, and the like – will not only not help you, they will harm you.”

Past experience teaches us that violence that begins in Jerusalem very rarely stays in Jerusalem.

Islamic terrorist organizations will exploit a perceived threat to Al Quds to rally others to their cause and methods. U.S. embassies around the world could be targeted as a result.

Maya Haber
This post was written by
Maya Haber was born and raised in Israel. She graduated from Tel Aviv University with a BA in History and Philosophy and went on to graduate school at the University of London and earned a PhD at the University of California Los Angeles. She has written and published on healthcare and social sciences in the post-WWII Soviet Union. Maya was the recipient of a Partners for Progressive Israel’s Study tour scholarship in November 2014. The symposium influenced her deeply and she started working for Partners for Progressive Israel as the Director of Development and Programming.

1 Comment on "Three Reasons Not to Move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem"

  • Wider dialogue on matter could be helpful.

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