Today the U.S. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert announced that the American Embassy in Israel will be moved from Tel Aviv to the consulate annex in Jerusalem by May of 2018. Nauert made the announcement of the controversial move via Twitter. Many predicted violent backlashes and immediate escalation of regional conflicts when the White House decided to move the embassy but those have yet to materialize.
The US will open a new Embassy in #Jerusalem this May. The Embassy will initially be located in the Arnona neighborhood. Consular operations will continue at the Arnona facility without interruption, as part of the Embassy. https://t.co/l88mOSeWC6 pic.twitter.com/Gcwj9LVLZN
— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) February 23, 2018
The consulate will temporarily be housed in the smaller Arnona consulate facility until a permanent embassy can be built. When the President was asked about the move at a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull he stated: “We took Jerusalem off the table” referring to the larger peace process between Israel and Palestine. Recently, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmood Abbas has called for multilateral peace talks which were largely ignored as no other nation is eager to take on this headache that has been throbbing for 70 years.
It is no coincidence that the move will be made in May of this year as it will be the 70th anniversary of Israeli independence, a symbolic move that isn’t easy to miss. While this may come across as gloating or trying to antagonize their Arab neighbors it’s a testament to Israeli permanence and perseverance. While Arabs may not like the move they seem willing to live and let live and have even begun to treat Israel like neighbors, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in particular, with billion dollar energy deals and cooperation in fighting the Islamic State that has spread after its defeat in Syria and Iraq.
The regional actor to watch, as always of late, is Iran. While Turkey’s President Erdogan talked tough and bellowed bluster about the move, it cycled through and faded as quickly as it came. Iran, however, is deadly serious about not allowing this to happen. Part of Iran’s propaganda and narrative is succeeding in removing Israel from the region where a Pan-Arab alliance failed. That’s why Iran has aided Syrian despot Bashar Al-Assad in slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians to obtain a land bridge while providing aid to Hamas and Hezbollah; all to position themselves better in their long con to remove Israel.
Those dreams and aspirations, however, are not shared by their partner in Syria, Russia. Iran would not have been as successful in Syria sans Russian air power and doesn’t stand a chance of dislodging Israel without it. Even with air power, Iran is not likely to fair any better than the Arab alliances in 1967 and 1972. A fact of which an already stretched Russia is acutely aware.
Iran and Israel are a volatile mix and it is hard to predict how this will play out over the next few years. There is a bit of hope in the air coming from Australia who has signaled it is willing to mediate on behalf of the US due to the fact that Australia actually has an embassy in Tehran.
Just back from a week in Australia. Lots of concern there about Turkey as a faltering NATO ally. And a debate heating up about whether or not to engage with Iran.
— Jonathan Schanzer (@JSchanzer) February 21, 2018
This would be a most positive development.