Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and will remain so. I don’t dispute the facts or its merits. But the reason that all 86 countries that have embassies in Israel have so far located them in Tel Aviv is that Jerusalem is an integral part of the final settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians claim the city as their capital as well. It contains sites sacred to all three of the world’s Abrahamic faiths. It has within it a large Arab population that, even after decades of new Israeli settlements, comprises more than a third of the city’s total. So, the formal status of Jerusalem has always been seen — by Republicans and Democrats, Europeans and Asians — as a matter to be codified in the context of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
If this move were part of a larger strategic plan, that would be one thing. In that case, Trump’s announcement would have been carefully plotted out, coupled with serious policy changes from Israel, or it would have been part of a series of measures to reassure both sides. Instead, it appears to be a one-off decision, designed largely to delight core elements of Trump’s base at home — evangelical Christians and pro-Israel donors. The only strategic aspect appears to be that it will help shore up the GOP base on the eve of Roy Moore’s senatorial contest in Alabama. That’s not diplomacy; that’s pandering.