Terrorism & Insurgency

US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital weakens PA’s authority and increases protests and terrorism risks

08 December 2017
Palestinian demonstrators confront Israeli troops during protests against a decision by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on 7 December 2017. Source: Abbas Momani/Contributor/Getty Images

Key Points

  • Although Israel has controlled all of Jerusalem since the 1967 Six-Day War and Jerusalem serves as the de facto seat of the Israel government, the United States had until now refrained from conferring it an official status pending a final Israeli-Palestinian agreement as stipulated in the Oslo Accords.
  • US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his comments regarding future Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem significantly weakens the Palestinian Authority’s negotiating position in any future peace talks.
  • Although the announcement increases the risk of more frequent low-level violence in mixed Arab-Israeli areas, it is unlikely to translate into a large-scale Palestinian uprising.


US President Donald Trump announced on 6 December 2017 that the United States formally recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, ordering the US Department of State to begin preparations for the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, passed by a bipartisan majority in the US Congress, recognised an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. However, the implementation of the law – namely the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – has been consistently delayed by successive Democratic and Republican US administrations on the grounds that this would undermine Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations on a two-state solution. US President Donald Trump stated that the announcement does not reflect a US position on specific “boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” instead asserting that this is merely recognition of a de facto reality, and does not prejudice the future status of Jerusalem in any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Trump also indicated that he was not necessarily committed to the two-state solution, although he affirmed that the United States would support a two-state solution if both sides agreed.

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