LSU Expert Shares Insight on President Trump’s Jerusalem Decision

Leonard Ray

Leonard Ray, the director of LSU’s International Studies Program and an associate professor of political science, shared his insight about the topic and how it could impact Louisiana, as well as the world.Photo: LSU

12/06/2017
BATON ROUGE -- President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It’s a decision that has drawn criticism from world leaders. Leonard Ray, the director of LSU’s International Studies Program and an associate professor of political science, shared his insight about the topic and how it could impact Louisiana, as well as the world.

“This is a delicate issue and a nuanced U.S. position recognizing the claims of both Israel and the Palestinians, and the Jordanian monarchy, could actually be constructive.  A blunt declaration appearing to take the side of Israel would set back efforts at peace significantly,” said Dr. Leonard Ray. “But symbolically, it gives the Israelis and their allies something to be happy about.  Whether they stay happy when they read the fine print will be worth watching.”

 

What are the reasons for the opposition from Muslims, Arabs and Europeans?

Muslims, Christians, and Jews all look to Abraham as a spiritual ancestor, and he is believed to have been told by God to sacrifice his son Issac on a rock located in present day Jerusalem. While God relented at the last minute, that location became a particularly holy site for all three religions, especially the Jews who built their temple on that site. For Muslims, Jerusalem is one of the holiest sites in Islam. The prophet Mohammed is believed to have ascended to heaven from the very rock in Jerusalem where the Jewish temple stood (before it was destroyed by the Romans.) When you see photos of Jerusalem, that blue octagonal building with a gold dome is the “Dome of the Rock.” Muslims throughout the world revere this location.

Two groups of Arabs are especially concerned by this decision.

For the Palestinians, their dream of having a state of their own with Jerusalem as its capital depends on the Israelis leaving enough of East Jerusalem for the Palestinians to credibly claim Jerusalem as their capital too. The Israelis are working to encircle Jerusalem with Jewish settlements so that they do not have to share the city. (About 35 percent of the population of Jerusalem are Arabs.)

For the Jordanians, the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, is a descendant of the prophet Mohammed, and his family is seen as protectors of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem -- especially the Dome of the Rock. If this announcement is seen as weakening his authority over Muslim holy sites, it may destabilize the Jordanian monarchy -- who are some of our most loyal allies in the Middle East.

The Europeans are upset because they want to see a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and see this announcement as massively counterproductive. 

How does this impact Israeli-Palestinian relations?

Depends on the details. It may make them worse, or a lot worse. If the Palestinian security forces stop cooperating with the Israeli army, we could see a new violent uprising. The entire Palestinian Authority could also collapse. 

Are there any ties between Louisiana and the Middle East? Could this change impact those relations?

People in Louisiana care deeply about peace in the Middle East, and this may make peace harder to achieve. We also have Louisianians in the armed forces who might be deployed to deal with any violence this action provokes.

Why should the average person in the U.S. care about this change?

This change removes one of the major bargaining chips the US had to pressure the government of Israel to make a peace deal with the Palestinians.  We will be perceived as even more biased towards Israel, and much of the world’s anger at Israel will also be directed towards us.

Is there anything else people should know about the announcement?

The details matter. What will be said about the Palestinians? Or the Jordanians? Are their rights and claims respected?  Where will this new embassy be located? In West Jerusalem which no one expects Israel will ever give up? Or in an Eastern neighborhood that the Palestinians could realistically hope to get for their capital?

 

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Contact Rachel Spangenthal
LSU Media Relations
225-578-3869
Rachelsp@lsu.edu

 

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