US Vice President Mike Pence told Republican Jewish Coalition that Washington is assessing whether to move American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump on the campaign trail had pledged to move the embassy, although heâ€™s softened his stance since taking office in January.
Pence assured the influential Jewish group that he alongwith President Trump will work on every issues, whether foreign or domestic, important to the Jewish community.
Pence, while addressing for the first time as vice president to Republican donors and Jewish leaders, said the world will know that America stands with Israel. Pence said that US relations with Israel, which plummeted under Obama, has grown stronger as Trump comes to the White House. Many Republican Jews accused Obama of being unsupportive to Israel.
Pence, just to boost his standing with Jewish cause, talked about his visits to
the vandalized Jewish cemetery in Missouri and Dachau concentration camp
Jerusalem is sacred to followers of three monotheistic religions. Muslims revere the Noble Sanctuary, where the Al Aqsa Mosque stands as the third holiest place in Islam after Mecca and Medina. It is home to Temple Mount, the holiest site in the world for Jews. And there is Church of Holy Sepulchre, which Christians revere as the site of Jesusâ€™s tomb.
Although, Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital, no other country, including United States, recognizes Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. Palestinians seek Jerusalem as their future capital and have warned that moving Israeli capital to the city would be explosive. All embassies in Israel are in Tel Aviv. Jewish community gave huge donations to help Trump win the presidential elections. Now, with Trump in the White House, Israelis are optimistic that the new administration will move US embassy to Jerusalem, a move that would lend legitimacy to their claim to the city.
Itâ€™s not the first time that an American president has promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Former president Bill Clinton and George W Bush also promised as candidate to move the embassy to Jerusalem but backed away as they took the office. They warned that the move could spark Arab violence and hamper peace talks. The US Congress passed a law in 1995 to move embassy to Jerusalem by 1999, but the legislation has provision allowing president to waive the move for six months citing national security. And this is what has happened since then. Obama too, before leaving the White House, signed the waiver in December.
Since 1989, United States has leased from Israeli administration a piece of land apparently for a future embassy. US also has a consulate-general in Jerusalem, which serves as the de facto representative of US government to deal with Palestinian Authority. United nations, US, Russia and European Union are working collectively to advance peace between Israel and Palestinians. They have taken a stand that itâ€™s up to the two sides to negotiate the status of Jerusalem.
In this backdrop, Mike Pence announcement about Trump administrationâ€™s embassy move is not the right step. It will lead to violent protests. Palestinian Authority has already warned that they might withdraw their recognition of Israel and effectively ending any cooperation with Israeli administration. If this happens, it will have huge impact on the security mechanism. The embassy move will lead to far reaching repercussions.