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Scholars believe moving U.S. embassy to Jerusalem could cost lives

December 6, 2017

Mark Katz

The United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful capital, and plans to relocate the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv, could prompt a violent reaction from the Arab and Muslim worlds, a George Mason University professor said, and decrease U.S. influence in the Middle East.

“This is a bad move,” said Mark Katz, a professor of Middle East foreign policy at George Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government and author of books on the Arabian Peninsula. “Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital offends the Arab and Muslim worlds, but does not increase U.S. influence anywhere.” 

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, a key U.S. ally, has condemned the move as “a flagrant provocation to Muslims.” And the New York Times reported that President Trump’s announcement could jeopardize efforts by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, and special envoy Jason Greenblatt to prepare for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

West Jerusalem is the seat of the Israeli government. Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

“It is certainly possible violence will result,” Katz said.

Peter Mandaville

Mason’s Peter Mandaville, a professor of government and politics at the Schar School, and a former senior advisor to the State Department in the Office of Religion and Global Affairs, suspects the move by the United States is part of a larger Middle East strategy.

“Trump’s announcement seems motivated by a desire to shock the moribund Middle East peace process out of stasis by upending decades of U.S. policy,” Mandaville said. “There is little sign, however, that the American president is doing anything other than foreclosing options—potentially at the cost of many lives."

Mark Katz can be reached at mkatz@gmu.edu, 703-993-1420.

Peter Mandaville can be reached at pmandiv@gmu.edu, 703-993-1054.

For more information, contact Buzz McClain at 703-727-0230 or bmcclai2@gmu.edu.

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George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 36,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.