Moving the U.S. embassy in Israel may seem like an overly risky move that will not create positive change in the Middle East. However, I believe it will actually strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and affect the ways in which the international community perceives the isolated Israel.
The U.S. embassy move would most certainly influence the worldview of Israel, especially following the controversial UN Resolution 2334. With the resolution, the U.S.’s support of Israel is questionable, and the world has taken note from Obama’s action that the U.S. will not always support its greatest ally (and only democratic state) in the Middle East. The U.S. abstained from the vote on the one-sided resolution, which condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, rather than vetoing it, therefore allowing it to pass by a vote of 14-0-1. The resolution isolated and belittled Israel with a proposed plan for the Middle East that heavily criticized Israel and its settlements while delegating minimal time to the Palestinian Authority's incitement activities and actions. . While the resolution sparked extensive international debate, The House of Representatives voted to rebuke the resolution, stating that it doesn’t create productive dialogue and compromise between the Israelis and Palestinians, instead merely acting as a suggested guideline imposed on Israel and the Palestinians for how they should handle their conflict. Should the U.S. choose to move its embassy, it would show itself to be a friend of Israel and would rekindle its support for the state. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the embassy “needs to be” in Jerusalem, and many other Israelis agree.
The move would also serve as a precedent for other nations. The U.S. is a major world powerhouse, funding the "lion's share" of NATO, according to President Trump, as well as supplying massive amounts of physical and economic resources to other UN-funded organizations. Some senators, including Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), called for the US to withdraw funding from the UN following the resolution to signal the U.S.’s disdain for it (I detailed this in one of my other Odyssey articles; check it out!). However, the fact that the U.S. is still supporting so many of the UN’s initiatives just makes it that much more powerful at the negotiating table. With the international community heavily dependent on U.S. funding for specific issues, U.S. support of Israel would likely sway other nations to do the same, for it would be unwise for many countries to become enemies of the U.S. The U.S. simply needs to take steps to reignite its bond with Israel.
From a logistical standpoint, it is sensible for the U.S. to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Proximity is key, and it would be wise for the embassy to be close to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem. This way, much like how Embassy Row is in Washington, D.C., near the White House and Congress, the U.S. embassy in Israel would be right near the Israeli government. This would prevent traffic difficulties and make dialogue between the two governments easier.
In terms of funding, following the Jerusalem Embassy Act, a law in favor of moving the embassy to Jerusalem passed by Congress in 1995, the U.S. set up a fund for the embassy move. Since the law passed, the various U.S. presidents have postponed the move, and the fund has remained untouched, as it is only able to be used for this measure. Also, the U.S. consulate and embassy in Israel could be switched, as the consulate is currently in Jerusalem. This would make the embassy move incredibly easy and virtually cost-free. Therefore, lack of funds or concern that the funds could be used for a different issue is not a deterrent to the embassy move.
As for the protection of the embassy, it would be defended (like all areas in Israel) by the Israeli Defense Forces. While the move might spark Palestinian outrage and potentially violent action, especially with the presence of terror groups, the Palestinians have already made many threats against the U.S. and Israel. If the U.S. hesitates and ultimately chooses not to move its embassy, it is giving credence to these threats and letting violent groups inhibit and dictate the terms of its friendship with the only democratic nation in the Middle East.
Furthermore, this conversation regarding Israel has been bipartisan through the decades. Of the four senators who voted against the Jerusalem Embassy Act, three were Republican. U.S. support for Israel today has often been perceived as a conservative position, but in reality, there are many reasons why both parties support the U.S.-Israel relationship. The only way that progress can be made to better the state of Israel is if U.S. politicians are willing to work across the aisle.Though moving the embassy definitely poses some serious risks, it would be worthwhile in improving the U.S.-Israel relationship and ultimately allowing the nations to jointly work with the Palestinians to create peace in the Middle East. After all, there is nothing to fear but fear itself (and Hamas), so we should not sacrifice friendship and possibility for fear.