Vice President Pence today stated that Trump is still ‘actively considering’ moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move was proposed by Trump during his campaign, and appeared to be under serious consideration during the first few months of his administration. It was shelved in June when Trump signed a waiver that kept the embassy in its current location, but appears to be on the table yet again.
It’s a reckless move that has the potential to blow up, quite literally, in the administration’s face. The situation between Israelis and Palestinians is fraught on the best of days. A cursory look on any Middle Eastern news page will show you that violence between the two sides is incredibly common, particularly in the West Bank and particularly in Jerusalem.
From a diplomatic and foreign policy perspective, this is bone-headed. There are already plenty of articles explaining why elsewhere. That argument is also irrelevant to an administration that appointed a mediocre real estate developer with no foreign policy experience to solve a crisis that has beleaguered experts across the world for generations.
There is, however, an argument that may change some minds in the West Wing, an argument covered in the blood of hundreds of diplomats working day and night to bring peace around the world. Diplomats, particularly in the Middle East, put their lives on the line carrying out policies of the United States. It is our duty to ensure that they, and the people that protect them, have the best chance to return home safely to their families after their tour is complete.
Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem throws that duty out the window to secure votes from evangelicals and a pat on the back from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A US Embassy in the Holy City will become a top target for Hamas, Hezbollah, or any of the other numerous terrorist groups currently operating in and around the Palestinian territories. The potential for another Benghazi would be greater than before Benghazi, and this time there will be no Hillary Clinton to scapegoat. With an underfunded State Department, our diplomats already face a greater security risk that would only be heightened with an embassy move.
Such an action also puts our Israeli allies at incredible risk. Israeli security forces will be tasked with another onerous mission in a city that is incredibly difficult to police on the best of days. Providing terrorists with further targets and reasons to attack will result in casualties for Israeli security forces, along with civilians on all sides who are caught up in the violence, including American tourists trying to access our embassy. It is an unnecessary cost that we should not be asking our ally to bear.
With Iran flexing its muscles across the region, we need our allies in the Middle East more than ever. Egypt would condemn the move, and it will take all the political good will we have with Jordan to prevent them from doing the same.Diplomatic relations between Israel and our allies in the Gulf will be set back decades. Iran has provided the impetus for them to have a reason to work together, but moving the embassy will prevent leaders in the Gulf from continuing to bridge the gap. A coalition between Israel and the Sunni Arab States will be needed to counter Iran and an embassy move will only disable any hopes of future cooperation.
Hopefully, the proposed move is just political posturing meant to galvanize support from the more hardcore supporters of the Trump administration. If the plan comes to fruition, lives will surely be lost, and it will be clear whose hands the blood is on.