The Problem With Declaring Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital City

By on December 6, 2017

President Donald Trump officially declared that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel this week.

“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital,” Trump said in a speech on Wednesday.

There are two reasons why this declaration is problematic, however, neither of which Trump or his administration is taking seriously. The first is that Jerusalem is a holy city in three different Abrahamic beliefs — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. By declaring that it is the official capital of Israel — itself a Jewish state — the president risks alienating tense relationships with Muslim-majority nations around the world, especially those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause (Palestinians also claim Jerusalem as their capital city). The declaration is also dangerous, as it could lead to extremists in the region using terrorism to oppose the move.

It is problematic for a second reason, however: it goes against international law. Although Israel has claimed Jerusalem as its capital for quite some time now, it was never originally meant to be as much. After World War II ended, and after the state of Israel was established, the international community determined that Jerusalem should become “corpus separatum” — Latin for “a separate body.”

In other words, Jerusalem was never meant to become part of any nation, but rather belong to the people of all nations, religions, or creeds.

That’s the way it should be. In practice, it hasn’t been as much for a long, long time. But that doesn’t mean the goal should die. Trump’s announcement today makes it all-the-more difficult to attain that ideal, to make the city of Jerusalem a place that is open for three religious beliefs and all of the sects thereof.

The security of the region and hostilities that will likely result from this move need to be considered, but so too does this notion that Jerusalem should become an international city for all.