On December 6, the United States officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced the US Embassy will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In response to this decision, terrorist organizations—specifically al-Qa’ida, HAMAS, and Hizballah—fueled efforts to target the United States and Israel. Since the US’ decision, protests between Palestinians and Israeli forces have escalated, resulting in at least 16 deaths.
At this time, there are no known specific or credible threats to New Jersey as a result of the US announcement. Prior demonstrations in the State involving Israeli-Palestinian relations were peaceful, including rallies over the conflict in the Gaza Strip in 2011 in Princeton (Mercer County) and Whippany (Morris County).
Al-Qa’ida will likely leverage this decision to renew its founding principles, inspire external operations, and attempt to bolster solidarity among Muslims. In 1996, deceased al-Qa’ida leader Usama bin Ladin declared war on the United States, vowing to push Western influence out of Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem and dispelling “the American enemy out of the holy Land.”
- Since December 6, al-Qa’ida and its affiliates have released nine pieces of propaganda regarding Jerusalem. Additionally, in 2016, Hamza bin Ladin—a son of Usama—reiterated his father’s pledge to liberate Jerusalem in an audio message titled, “Al-Quds [Jerusalem] is But a Bride whose Dowry is Our Blood.”
- Shortly after the US announcement, al-Qa’ida’s leadership urged supporters to conduct attacks, stating, “The surest and shortest way to confront the aggression and arrogance of the Pharaoh of the age—America—is Jihad in the Way of Allah, by targeting its vital interests and the interests of its Zionist and Crusader allies everywhere.”
- In late December, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb stated, “Accordingly, we call upon every mujahid to keep the liberation of Palestine and the support of its people and the purification of al-Aqsa from the squalor of the Jews as is its central cause, and let all of us bear the slogan: ‘In al-Aqsa we meet.’
HAMAS will likely justify violent action, strengthen its alliance with Iran, and bolster its popularity, as a result of the US’ decision. In May, HAMAS’s leadership agreed to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders—which refers to the borders prior to the Six Day War when Israel captured Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem—with Jerusalem as its capital, but refused to recognize Israel.
- In an official statement released on December 8, HAMAS instructed “people to engage with the Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers everywhere.” Since this announcement, militants in Gaza—including HAMAS—have fired approximately 20 rockets into Israel.
- On December 11, the head of HAMAS’s political bureau contacted the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran to discuss America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Iran renounced the American policy decision and “stressed that Iran will support Palestine with all capabilities at hand and stand with the Palestinian people till they liberate their country with Jerusalem as its capital,” according to the HAMAS official political website.
- Ninety percent of Palestinians view the US announcement as “a threat to Palestinian interests,” according to a Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll. Furthermore, 70 percent of Palestinians “demand for” Mahmoud Abbas—the President of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority—to resign, creating an opportunity for HAMAS to strengthen its political support in the Palestinian territories.
Hizballah will likely shift its priorities, regain support throughout the Middle East, and unite anti-Israeli resistance groups because of the US’ decision. Since 2012, Hizballah has lost credibility as a leader in the movement against Israel when it began to support Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria—widely seen as a conflict targeting Sunni Muslims.
- On December 11, the leader of Hizballah stated the group would return to its “most important priority” and focus its resources on the “struggle for Palestine.” He also stated that other “victories” in the region would allow the group to focus on Jerusalem, alluding to Hizballah’s involvement and successes in the Syrian Civil War.
- Hizballah’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War is “widely unpopular” in many Muslim countries and territories, including Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, according to a Western research center. This is largely due to the perception that Hizballah abandoned the fight against Israel to target fellow Muslims in a sectarian conflict.
- Five days after the US announcement, tens of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians attended a Hizballah rally in Beirut, Lebanon, where Hizballah’s leader called for a “unified strategy” among all resistance groups. Anti-Israel organizations—including Hizballah, Hamas, and five armed groups active in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip—are forming a “coordination room” to “confront Israel” and the US decision, according a Lebanese media outlet.