Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem Could Help the Peace Process

(Washington Post) Miriam F. Elman - Critics claim that moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would unleash a wave of extremism, making past clashes pale by comparison. But these warnings may be exaggerated. A careful look at conflict-resolution theory suggests that moving the embassy could be a constructive move, pushing Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations. Moreover, though some Arab states may protest, official relations between Israel and its neighbors have never been better as they face down common threats, from Islamist extremism to an expanding Iranian influence. On the outskirts of Jerusalem, the Tomb of Samuel is a model of interfaith harmony. Jews and Muslims conduct prayers there simultaneously. It's the only place on the planet where a functioning synagogue operates underneath a working mosque. The tomb's relatively minor religious importance for Muslims has helped to preserve the peace. But strong coordination and dialogue between the local Muslim clerics who administer the mosque and Israeli civil authorities who control the Jewish prayer room there as a national park have also been essential to stability. The symbolic act of relocating the embassy and a reversal of the longtime U.S. diplomatic boycott of Jerusalem could bode well for Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects. Sending a strong message that the new administration stands with the Israeli government on a major symbolic issue with high potential costs could push the Palestinian leadership to a greater sense of urgency in negotiations. The U.S. Embassy move could even help advance efforts to duplicate the precious Jewish-Muslim coexistence model of Samuel's Tomb for Jerusalem's other contested sacred spaces. The writer is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and research director in the Program for the Advancement of Research in Conflict and Collaboration.

2017-01-06 00:00:00

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