Trump To Move Embassy to Jerusalem, Needlessly Inflaming Region

This will get people killed. Quite likely, including American citizens.


President Donald Trump is, according to multiple reports, planning to announce the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem tomorrow.

The Independent:

The White House will on Monday announce that the US embassy in Israel is to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to an unconfirmed report by an Israeli news outlet.

Channel 2 cited an anonymous source as saying a member of the Trump administration would announce the highly controversial move on the President’s first full working day in office.

The news channel said it had received no confirmation of the claim and there has been no public statement on the move since Friday’s inauguration of the new US President.

Relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem would represent a major break with US policy.

Donald Trump has said repeatedly that he intends to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem, despite warnings the move would violate international law and destroy the peace process.

It appears that all the reports are being circulated through the Israeli press and unconfirmed. So perhaps this is just a trial balloon. But he’s certainly talked it up a lot of late. Here’s a Friday report from NYT:

It started, as it has in American presidential races for decades, as a campaign line, one that weary Israelis and Palestinians hear but rarely take seriously: Donald J. Trump promised to move his nation’s embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

But by Thursday, the eve of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, those decades of promises seemed very real — with reverberations far beyond stone and cement.

Mr. Trump himself made perhaps his strongest statement on the issue on Thursday, telling a conservative Israeli news outlet, “You know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”

Palestinians protested around the West Bank on Thursday, and many Israeli Jews wondered if this was a gift that could be politely pushed away. Moving the embassy is not even close to the top of the list of concerns for even right-leaning Israelis who oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Many worry it would only set off new fighting with the Palestinians as well as the rest of the Arab world, a big price tag for a symbolic change that would hardly move the ball on the broader conflict.

“I don’t know what’s in it for Trump,” said Akiva Eldar, a longtime Israeli columnist and co-author of a book on the issue of moving the embassy. Mr. Eldar’s thesis was that this was largely a concern for American politicians, not Israelis or Palestinians — and even within the United States, it was not generally advocated by those with experience on the ground.

“If you talk to serious people, if you ask the secret service, they say don’t do it,” Mr. Eldar noted. “They don’t think it’s worth it. Everything is so fragile right now.”

Amid the West Bank protests on Thursday, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said that moving the embassy would be a “red line” that, if crossed, could kill a two-state solution, reduce American influence in the peace process, and possibly set off a new round of violence.

“Why would a president-elect decide to begin his presidency by playing with the blood of Palestinians and Israelis?” Mr. Erekat asked in an interview. “Why? For whose sake?”

That this should happen has been a Republican talking point as long as I can remember. Yet, none of the five Republican presidents in my lifetime has paid more than lip service to the policy. That’s because, while it would be a sop to the Evangelical base, it’s a wildly stupid idea.

But, unlike the other Republican presidents, Trump is both incredibly stupid and stubbornly resistant to listening to expert advice.  His Israeli ambassador is a dangerous zealot and his pick for Secretary of State, almost certain to be confirmed, seems to be something of a foreign affairs ignoramus, at least judging from his confirmation hearings. His National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn, almost universally regarded as enormously bright and is more than qualified by resume for the post, is also a zealot. It wouldn’t shock me at all were he cheerleading this disastrous policy.

Trump’s administration is barely 48 hours old and he’s yet to actually put in a day at the office. Yet, already, he’s doing stupid things faster than I can muster the energy to write about them.

Make no mistake:  Moving the embassy to Jerusalem will get people killed. Quite likely, including American citizens. And it will yield zero national security or other benefit to the United States of America.




FILED UNDER: Middle East, National Security, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Where does Putin stand on this?

    Would he benefit from a distracted, even more isolated and embattled Israel? Would it strengthen the hand of Putin/Assad ally Hezbollah? Strengthen Assad’s hand by allowing him to redirect some passions away from himself and onto Israel? Would it strain the wink-wink coziness between Israel and Saudi Arabia and Jordan?

    Yes to all three.

  2. Lit3Bolt says:

    @michael reynolds:


    Trump supporters and all Republicans need to understand that Trump is acting like he is compromised by Russia. Every foreign policy move he has supported or stated has been to the Kremlin’s direct benefit. I welcome any contrary evidence.

  3. Cheryl Rofer says:

    FWIW, they seem to have withdrawn this proposal. But Twitter could be wrong, or they may change their minds yet again.

  4. Jake says:

    Your a funny guy I will kill you last.

    When did this site turn into appeasement

  5. Pch101 says:

    while it would be a sop to the Evangelical base

    It’s also an attempt to increase Jewish support for the Republicans.

    The Jewish vote has long been heavily Democratic. This is the Democratic constituency that the GOP most wants. Some of them will like this sort of thing.

    It’s also an FU to Muslims and Arabs. Those sorts of attacks for their own sake have genuine personal appeal for Trump’s fan club — to this group, deliberately offending minority groups is what they call “straight talk”.

  6. Robert C says:


    Never assume conspiracy when simple stupidity is an explanation.

    Robert C

  7. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Robert C:

    That’s why I said “acting.” At this point it’s almost irrelevant if Putin controls Trump or not. What’s meaningful is Trump’s actual behavior, since you cannot trust anything he says.

  8. Terrye Cravens says:

    This is like gas on a fire.

  9. Paul L. says:
  10. Paul Hooson says:

    I’m Jewish and very proIsrael, however I strongly oppose any embassy move or incitement of bad relations among either the Palestinians or among the Muslims in the region. Saudi Arabia recognizes that Israel would be an ally against Iran, and this only serves to incite divisions here. It serves no good purpose for the Trump Administration to damage the improved relations with Muslim states opposed to both Syria’s regime and Iran’s regime.

  11. HatvardLaw92 says:


    It’s also an attempt to increase Jewish support for the Republicans.

    I’m not sure which Jews this would appeal to. Every Jew that I know, including myself, is flat out horrified that it’s even being seriously considered.

    This smells like a sop for the evangelical Christian crazies.

  12. Kylopod says:


    It’s also an attempt to increase Jewish support for the Republicans.

    If so, they know nothing about the Jewish community in America. It reminds me in some ways of the way pundits talk about Catholic voters as being uniformly motivated by a hatred of abortion. Most American Jews are not single-issue voters regarding Israel, and most do not share the right’s hardline views on the issue anyway.

    Since 1984, every Democratic nominee from Walter Mondale to Hillary Clinton has received a minimum of two-thirds of the Jewish vote. But that hasn’t stopped certain pundits from predicting a mass defection being just around the corner. (Here is an example of this genre from 2003. Needless to say, it did not come true.)

  13. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Pch101: I disagree about Jewish support. This is frightening to anyone with a stake in area.

    This is red meat for the Evangicals and Dominionists who need the Jews to perform their required role in the End Times in order to keep their reading of Revelations relevant.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    By the way, did you mean “you’re”?
    How is it appeasement to oppose moving our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? I’m not sure that you know what appeasement is?

  15. wr says:

    @HatvardLaw92: “I’m not sure which Jews this would appeal to.”

    His name is Sheldon Adelson. To Trump, the only Jew who matters.

  16. Pch101 says:


    Well, I have anecdotal experience from the other side. These tend to be Netahyahu supporters who are orthodox, conservadox and/or Israeli emigres.

    But in any case, the issue is one of Republican motivations, not one of whether it will actually work.

    The GOP was similarly inspired when it invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress. It can’t hurt them to try, and it might succeed someday — this is a group that the Republicans can attempt to reach without alienating the GOP base.

    Per Pew, 24% of Jewish voters opted for Trump. They do exist, even if they are a minority and you don’t know any of them.

  17. Kylopod says:


    Per Pew, 24% of Jewish voters opted for Trump. They do exist, even if they are a minority and you don’t know any of them.

    I walk in more right-wing circles than HL92 does, and I’m well aware there are some very right-wing Jews in this country (though most Jewish conservatives I know weren’t thrilled by Trump and some declined to vote for him or even supported Hillary).

    That said, Jews are such a tiny minority that it hardly matters what 1/4 of them think. Most Jews in the US are concentrated in solid-blue states like New York, Cali, and Illinois. One big exception is Florida, but even there the effect is often overstated: Jews constitute only about 4% of the electorate there. Even if a Republican candidate were to nab one half of that group–which is extraordinarily unlikely–it would produce a net gain of just 1% in the state vote. In a close election that could potentially matter. But it’s just not the sort of thing to justify major shifts in policy.

    So, in sum, I agree with others that this decision is more motivated by the desire to court evangelicals and certain Jewish donors like Adelson.

  18. Pch101 says:


    This is a math problem.

    Let’s say you have a pool of 100 voters, 49 of which choose blue marbles, 49 of which choose red marbles, and 2 who choose a third color.

    If you can convert a blue marble guy into a red marble guy, the number changes to 48-50-2. Changing one voter adds a two-point spread. Better yet, the odds that such are a result is being won in a blue district in a blue state. Taking votes from the opponent is an optimal outcome because it helps you and hurts your opponent simultaneously.

    In any case, why wouldn’t the GOP go after the Jewish vote when it can do so without losing current Republicans? The same can’t be said about blacks and Latinos — overt efforts to reach those groups will surely piss off more than a few Republican voters, so that would come at a price.

    The GOP is playing the long game with this. Anti-semitism used to be all the rage with conservatives, but now it is now passe. They prefer to hate Muslims and other people.

  19. MBunge says:

    This seems like a terrible idea, but that was the case every single time past politicians advocated it as well. On the other hand, the two-state solution was well and truly boned before Trump showed up. Maybe it’s time for everyone to acknowledge that and figure out what comes next.


  20. Kylopod says:


    In any case, why wouldn’t the GOP go after the Jewish vote when it can do so without losing current Republicans?

    There are two answers:

    (1) It requires an extraordinary amount of effort for very little electoral reward (in terms of the Jewish vote–the evangelical vote is another matter), when they could be using that capital for more promising and efficient goals.

    (2) As I mentioned, Republicans have predicted making serious inroads into the Jewish community for several decades without any real shifts occurring. Here is a sample:

    San Diego Union-Tribune, Oct. 1984: “‘Jewish voters, who for decades have been identified as a liberal bloc that voted predominantly Democratic, are finding the Republican Party increasingly attractive,'” says El Cajon Municipal Judge Victor Bianchini. The Reagan-Bush campaign has set up a special office to appeal to Jewish voters. The Republican national ticket hasn’t carried the Jewish vote since 1928, but President Reagan’s political advisors believe such an achievement is within reach this year.”

    Palm Beach Post, Sep. 1996: “Brooks sees a growing trend among Jewish voters–particularly those under 45–to support GOP candidates and the conservative economic and social policies advocated by the Republican Party.”

    Washington Jewish Week, Aug. 1998: “Republicans who speak out in defense of Israel and against the current White House’s high-handed bullying tactics will find a receptive audience within the Jewish community, [Frank] Luntz advised the National Jewish Coalition.”

    Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Dec. 1999: “Jewish Republican activists are saying–as they have for years, Jewish Democrats note–that this election will see a significant shift of the Jewish vote from the Democratic Party to the GOP.”, Apr. 2002: “Jewish voters gravitating toward GOP.”

    Washington Jewish Week, Mar. 2004: “There is no talk to Bush’s headquarters regarding official figures, but there are expectations that the Jewish community will double its support for the president in the elections this November.”

    USNews, Apr. 2008: “He predicted that McCain has a ‘real good shot’ at bringing more Jewish voters into the GOP fold this fall and has already been targeting those voters in states including Florida, California, and New York.”

    So when I hear the same sort of remarks now, it brings to mind the adage of how the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results.

  21. Pch101 says:


    they could be using that capital for more promising and efficient goals

    It costs them nothing.

  22. Gustopher says:

    Assuming this actually happens, then when people die from this, I hope everyone remembers it was caused by Trump.

    Yes, he won’t be the one to actually shoot up the place, but he is needlessly antagonizing the people who will.

    This isn’t just calling them Radical Islamic Fundamentalists, or drawing pictures of Mohammad, this is injecting our embassy into an ongoing territorial dispute. This is the equivalent of putting the American Embassy to England in Belfast in the middle of the troubles.

  23. Slugger says:

    Let me ask one question. What advantage accrues to the US from this? Clearly, the interests of the USA are the president’s main duty. Does this improve the US position?

  24. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101: The real question here is: Would Republicans do this if their only motivation was attracting Jewish support? I think the answer is clearly no. Their main underlying reason is the evangelical vote. They may also think it will happen to help attract some Jewish voters, but to them that’s icing on the cake, not a good reason on its own to justify this action.

  25. Pch101 says:

    If you can place a bet at no cost that you might win and can’t lose, then you take the bet.

    If you can place that bet at no cost and possibly hurt your opponent, then even better.

  26. charon says:


    The Jewish vote has long been heavily Democratic. This is the Democratic constituency that the GOP most wants. Some of them will like this sort of thing.

    Jews who “like this sort of thing” are almost all already Republicans. Jewish Democrats, not so much. (Your assumption is offensive, BTW.)

  27. Pch101 says:


    I find shooting the messenger to be even more offensive.

  28. Mark says:

    No such thing as Palestinians . The Embassy should be in Jerusalem

  29. Daryl says:

    “The law has said that the Embassy should be relocated to Jerusalem since 1995. So, 22 years too late is the latest it should be. I see absolutely no reason for delay.”

  30. Daryl says:

    Finding a compromise on a delicate foreign policy question, Congress overwhelmingly approved legislation today to move the United Sates Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem by 1999 after adding a provision that would allow the President to delay the move indefinitely.

    The White House, which had strongly opposed the measure, immediately suggested it would take steps to block the relocation and criticized Congress, saying it was meddling in the peace talks. The legislation, which passed the Senate by 93 votes to 5 and the House by 374 to 37, now leaves to the Administration the politically sensitive question of whether and when to relocate the embassy.

  31. Kylopod says:


    If you can place a bet at no cost that you might win and can’t lose, then you take the bet.

    If you’re a millionaire and all you’d win at most is $50? I don’t think so.

    Any electoral advantage the Republicans could conceivably acquire from winning over this tiny slice of the Jewish vote (i.e. hawkishly pro-Israel Jews who are not already committed Republicans) is equivalent to $50 to a millionaire. In other words, it’s negligible and wouldn’t be worth their time even if they did have nothing to lose (which is itself a questionable assumption, but I’ll let that pass). And that’s not even getting into their long record of failure in attempting to woo such voters in the past.

  32. Pch101 says:


    Game theory would tell you to place the bet because it costs you nothing and might get you something.

  33. Sherparick says:

    @michael reynolds: Frankly, I wish we had elected Tony Soprano or Vito Corleone for President. They would show more caution and judiciousness then Freeto Benito. By the way, Ronald Reagan, the lodestar of modern Republicanism, said this on the subject.

    Why, then is he doing it. Several reasons I think. 1) he and his crew are basically ignorant louts; 2) Trump operates on the basis of “your nice to me, I am nice to you” so he thinks he will be doing a favor to Israel by moving the embassy; 3) the heart of the Republican base, the Evangelical Fundamentalist Right Wing Base look at the “Left Behind Books” as non-fiction and they believe that moving the embassy to Jerusalem will hasten the rebuilding of the Temple and hasten the Second Coming, a major war with Islam being also a necessary precursor. They expect to be raptured up before the nuclear bombs start falling.

  34. Sherparick says:

    @Mark: I see that you have gotten into spirit of the “Alternate Facts” Zeitgeist. So what would you call all those non-Jewish Arab speakers born in places like Gaza, Bethleham , etc. since I know that the Israeli Government does not want to say that the 2.3 million people who are not Jewish living in West Bank and East Jerusalem are citizens of Israel?

  35. Mark says:
  36. Fred says:

    There is no doubt moving the Embassy would be provocative. However since we enabled this fiction for so long that Jerusalem is not Israel, it makes it look provocative. The truth is Jerusalem is in Israel and is the proper place for the Embassy.

  37. al-Ameda says:

    “President Donald Trump is, according to multiple reports, planning to announce the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem tomorrow.”
    We seem especially determined to implement the “Pottery Barn Rule” wherever we go, “if you break it, you own it.”