Embassy Analysis: The American Institute in Taiwan vs Trump’s Jerusalem Move

Look to Jerusalem for a read on the significance of this summer’s opening of a new complex for Taiwan’s de facto embassy.

The News Lens
Date: 2018/09/14
By: By Simon Preker, Taiwan Insight

Credit: Taiwan Business TOPICS

At first sight, Jerusalem and Taipei do not share much common ground. Sure, certain approaches in Taiwan’s official memory politics intersect with Israeli historiography, but today the two governments are not linked by particularly close ties. For example, Israel never formally recognized the Republic of China (ROC). Instead, in 1950, Israel extended recognition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC); a formal recognition followed in 1992.

The U.S. government, however, is a close ally to both Taiwan and Israel and maintains a diplomatic presence in both capitals. Given the fact that Israel is widely recognized as a sovereign nation whereas Taiwan is not, this raises the complicated and controversial question where and what the respective capitals are and where the U.S. government should maintain an official representation. Taipei or Beijing? Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?

It also touches upon the role of diplomatic missions in general and why they carry such a political weight. Yet, it is remarkable that diplomatic missions do not need to be in the capital and do not imply a formal diplomatic recognition as a sovereign nation. Subsequently, after the U.S. government’s 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act recognized Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, plans were made to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. However, the Act was not implemented for more than 20 years. It was Donald Trump, while campaigning for his presidential bid, who promised in his AIPAC speech to move the embassy. On May 14, 2018, the promise was fulfilled, and the embassy moved to Jerusalem, resulting in violent protests and numerous deaths.

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