BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS, JR.
President Trump is no stranger to controversy and he stirred up quite a bit of it last week when he decided that he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and, in addition, move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. This move was praised by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but was widely criticized by others across the world, especially Palestinian leaders who view Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
I disagree with Trump on Jerusalem and instead favor a two state solution. The Israelis and the Palestinians could share the capital with one claiming the east and one claiming the west – just as was done in East and West Berlin. The leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said Trump’s plan was the “Kiss of Death” for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I agree with him. It’s a terrible idea and should not be allowed to move forward.
Trump’s drastic decision, which has sparked protests around the world, demonstrates his continued pattern of catering to the right wing evangelicals of the United States, who form the majority of his political base. It is a thank you to them for supporting him. These individuals – all of whom believe that the Jews are God’s chosen people – are trading off their Christian faith for their faith in Republican values. My bible teaches me that all of us who believe in Jesus the Christ are His people. We, Jew and Gentile, are people of God.
Trump’s decision on Jerusalem is the equivalent of throwing gasoline on a fire. It breaks international agreements and turns our allies against us. It hurts America and prevents us from being a free agent and an honest broker. It also hurts the already suffering people of Palestine and tells them they have nothing to lose. People thrown in that predicament are the most difficult to work with.
Since Jerusalem is a site that is holy for members of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths, Trump handing over the city to just one group could spark further violence in the Middle East. It has already begun. On December 8, Palestinians protested the move in a “Day of Rage,” and many countries followed. Thousands of people protested in Lebanon, which is home to 450,000 Palestinian refugees and security forces fired tear gas and water cannons at the crowds. More than 2 million Palestinian refugees live in Jordan, which was also the scene of massive protests.
In the past, previous presidents of the United States have encouraged conversations between all stakeholders to ensure arrival at a fair and equitable outcome for all sides. For many Trump’s decision on Jerusalem is a grave offense and a violation of human rights. Trump has also indirectly taken away Palestine’s right to independence and their sovereignty.
In 1967, during the Middle East war, Israel captured East Jerusalem, annexed the city and declared it the country’s capital, a decision that is not recognized by the international community. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Here in Queens, the most diverse borough in the city, and the world, we are home to Christians, Muslims and Jews. We have a responsibility to promote peace and understanding of our brothers and sisters of different faiths. I encourage the faith-based community to come together to denounce Trump’s decision and work towards a more equitable two-state solution.