U.S. policymakers should work to see Jerusalem recognized globally as Israel's capital. Towards that end, however, the U.S. should not recognize Jerusalem until an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord is reached.
Because if, as is expected, President Trump formally recognizes Jerusalem on Wednesday, America and the peace process will suffer.
In the first instance, the U.S. will see damage to its relationship with Arab partners in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.
While it's true that many regional leaders view the Palestinian cause as more significant on paper than in practice, they also recognize and respond to their populations' pro-Palestinian viewpoints. Any unilateral U.S. recognition of Jerusalem will lead to populist protests in the Palestinian territories and likely throughout the Islamic world. While President Trump should remind foreign governments that he holds them responsible for the security of U.S. persons and facilities, he should also recognize that his announcement will put U.S. allies like King Abdullah of Jordan in a very hard position.
A premature announcement would also lead to a propaganda coup for Iran and regional terrorist groups. Iran and its terrorist contemporaries (and opponents) view the Palestinian cause as a crucial recruiting and fundraising tool. By presenting the Palestinian destitution as a direct, intended consequence of American-led policy, they incentivize aggression against the U.S. and its "treasonous" allies in the Muslim world.
Jerusalem also has a special symbolic value for terrorist groups such as Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah. Their logos and rhetoric are defined by calls to "liberate" the city from Israel. They will embrace U.S. recognition as new evidence for the "righteousness" of their cause.
Don't get me wrong, it's all nonsense, but it will have play on the street.
In that regard, these distractions are a useful way to shift public perceptions away from the rot in Palestinian and contemporary Islamic governance. Iran, in particular, will view this as a perfect moment to jeopardize U.S. standing in the Islamic world.
Still, it's easy to understand why the Israeli government is so determined that Trump should make his announcement now. Various hardliners in the Israeli Cabinet — not so much Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself -- have a vested interest in seeing the peace process slowed down or stopped entirely. These individuals firmly oppose offering concessions to the Palestinians and would view U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as a perfect means of sidelining the peace process. After all, if the Palestinians pulled out of peace talks in response, they can portray the Palestinians as wholly to blame for the failure of peace talks.
Yes, I recognize that Jerusalem is Israel's spiritual and political capital. But I also believe that the Trump administration is right to pursue a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
Reflecting the latter concern's precedence and replicating his about face on the Palestinian political office in Washington, Trump should wait for a formal Israeli-Palestinian agreement before making this announcement.