In one sense, President Trump’s announcement about recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is much ado about nothing. Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since the founding of the modern state. The entire government is located there. While other countries may not formally recognize it, the reality is that any country that has relations with Israel implicitly accepts that Jerusalem is the capital. Foreign dignitaries meet Israeli government officials in official Israeli government offices in Jerusalem. Even former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, the first Arab leader to visit Israel, addressed the Israeli leadership in the Knesset in Jerusalem, not on the beaches of Tel Aviv. Honestly, the avoidance of formal recognition was simply an exercise in futility and assuaged the international community into thinking that there was something to be gained by tying formal recognition to an eventual peace treaty. The two issues are unrelated.
On the other hand, President Trump’s insistence that formally recognizing Jerusalem could jump start peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is completely ridiculous. The reason there are no negotiations is that neither side is serious. Any final settlement will require Israel to relinquish most of the West Bank to the Palestinians, which would cause the current government to collapse. In addition, the current Palestinian leadership would likely walk away again from any negotiated settlement, like they have a number of times since the year 2000.
What is likely to happen, however, is a weakening of relations between Israel and some of the “moderate” Arab nations. The rise of Iran has caused a number of Arab states to look for partners to restrain Iran’s expansion plans. Israel has been the beneficiary because of its defense superiority and ingenuity, which the Arab governments desperately need. Now, however, the Arab Street likely will sympathize with their Palestinian brothers and make it almost impossible for Arab governments to maintain relations with Israel.
For the United States, this was one more action by the President that further weakens US standing in the world. He has already forfeited Asia and parts of Africa to China, parts of eastern Europe and the Middle East to Russia and now further emboldens Iran and radical Islam. For someone who campaigned on strengthening America, most of his actions have had the reverse effect.
An interesting question is whether America’s formal recognition of Jerusalem will have a salutary spiritual effect on Israel, the US and/or the world. In Genesis 12, God tells Abraham that those who bless him (and his descendants) will be blessed, and those who curse him will be cursed. There are numerous Biblical passages about God’s love for Jerusalem, His plans to protect her and anyone who comes against her will be destroyed. There are many examples throughout history where it appears that a nation which treats the Jewish people well prospers. The reverse also seems true when nations have persecuted Jews. In my view strengthening Israel’s defenses and assisting her in making peace with her neighbors, including the Palestinians, is a far better way to support Israel than a proclamation about Jerusalem. Having said that, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and all nations should simply accept it.