Myth: Moving the UK embassy to Jerusalem would undermine peace

MYTH

Moving the UK embassy to Jerusalem would undermine peace, provoke violence, and damage relations with the Muslim world.

FACT

The Guardian painted an apocalyptic picture of the future if British Prime Minister Liz Truss decides to relocate the British embassy to Jerusalem.

“Moving the embassy would tear up the commitment to any meaningful two-state solution. It would tacitly condone the march of illegal settlements. Palestinian doors would slam in the faces of diplomats, the British Council, and others….Relations with other Middle East nations would suffer. All this for minimal, if any, benefit”

(“The Guardian view on moving the British embassy to Jerusalem: don’t do it,” The Guardian, September 27, 2022).

The same dire warnings were heard when President Donald Trump decided to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The hysteria proved unwarranted. The same will be true if the UK takes the logical step of locating its embassy in Israel’s capital, just like in every other country.

Much of the Muslim world was unhappy with the U.S. decision, but it did not erupt in violence.  The Palestinians declared three “days of rage,” and some violent protests, (many staged for the benefit of journalists) did occur; however, the reaction in the rest of the Middle East was muted (Bassam Tawil, “The Real Palestinian Response to Trump’s Jerusalem Speech,” Gatestone Institute, December 7, 2017). This was partly because most Arab leaders have reconciled themselves to the reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.  They also have no interest in upheaval in their countries, especially given their existing domestic problems and external threats from Iran and radical Islamists.

US consulate general in Jerusalem merges with embassy - BBC News
credit: BBC

Trump is gone, but the U.S. embassy is still in Jerusalem.  It is accepted and has had no impact on America’s relations with the Palestinians or the Muslim world.  It also did not prevent the conclusion of the Abraham Accords.

Conditions have not significantly changed since the U.S. embassy opened in 2018, and there is no reason to believe there will be any upheaval or that doors will be closed to British diplomats if Jerusalem becomes home to their embassy.  This is outdated British Foreign Office thinking that strengthening relations with Israel would harm relations with the Arab world.  This was proven to be nonsense over the years as the Palestinians and leaders in the region need the UK more than the UK needs them.

The U.S. recognition of Jerusalem did not harm the peace process because there were no negotiations. That is still true today.  If anything, Trump’s decision may have enhanced the prospects for peace by making clear that the United States believes Jerusalem should remain unified under Israeli sovereignty and that Palestinian demands to have a capital in the city’s heart are unrealistic.  That message would be hammered home by British recognition.

Moving the British embassy has nothing to do with settlements. It does not preclude the parties from agreeing on future borders that may create a Palestinian state.  Past talks have suggested that a Palestinian capital could be in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, where the Palestinians have already constructed a parliament building.

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Published at Myths & Facts… Jewish Virtual Library

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