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Turkey’s Leadership in the Jerusalem Crisis

This commentary analyzes the factors behind Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy therein, arguing that the decision was motivated mainly by internal politics. It also discusses the prominent role Turkey assumed in bringing the issue to the international community’s attention. Turkey played a key role in the process, convening the OIC and then working for a reversal of the decision in the UNGA. Its efforts rallied both Muslim and Western countries in a firm rejection of any sudden changes in the city’s status.

Turkey s Leadership in the Jerusalem Crisis

Introduction

On December 6, 2017, the U.S. President, Donald Trump, officially proclaimed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He also expressed the commitment of his administration to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move which disturbed many Muslims around the world. Several countries in Europe expressed their reservations about Trump’s proclamation. For Trump it was simply a matter of keeping his electoral promise.1 

Trump’s move was based on a controversial regulation of “Jerusalem Embassy Act” of 1995.2 The U.S. Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act in October 1995,3 which recognized Jerusalem as the “capital of the state of Israel” and acknowledged that it “has been administered as a unified city” implying the Israeli control. While not mentioning the disputed status of the city of Jerusalem, the Act set the deadline for moving the U.S. embassy there as May 31, 1999. Since 1998, all U.S. presidents opted to use their power to defer the act in order to avoid provoking the already enflamed Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 

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