On Wednesday, the president may recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and possibly announce the movement of the American embassy to Jerusalem. While this may seem like a simple common sense move, in reality it is a politically loaded one that makes little sense in the current context.
First, the obvious. Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel in any final agreement and already functions that way today. From a logistical perspective, there is a certain appeal to moving the embassy. American diplomats are constantly making the trek to Jerusalem to meet Israeli government officials, and the U.S. ambassador has long had a permanent hotel suite in Jerusalem as so much of the work happens in there. In addition, the American embassy facilities in Tel Aviv are far below par compared to similar embassies in other important partner countries, which hurts the ability of American diplomats to function effectively. Nevertheless, the loaded politics around the embassy issue have prevented moving the embassy to a new facility. Obviously building a new embassy in Jerusalem comes with political baggage, but breaking ground on a replacement facility in Tel Aviv would also cause a massive political uproar in Israel. So from a logistical perspective, moving the embassy would make all the sense in the world.
Read the full commentary in the Israel Policy Forum's Matzav Blog.