On Dec. 6, President Trump announced that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The State Department issued a worldwide travel alert on Dec. 6 adding information about the threat of violence against U.S. citizens traveling abroad. Trump later signed a waiver to delay the move of the embassy by six months.

In the past two days, several major news outlets have reported protests in Israel, Palestine, Malaysia, Indonesia, Syria, Iran, and the U.S. The United Nations Security Council held a special meeting on the Middle East on Dec. 8, following statements made to the press by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in which he stressed the importance of the two-state solution and said that Jerusalem was an issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.

Key points:

  • The U.S. Department of State updated the Worldwide Caution alert for U.S. citizens traveling abroad following the Dec. 6 statement by President Trump on Jerusalem.
  • The travel alert stated that U.S. citizens traveling abroad should remain alert to the possibility of political unrest, violence, demonstrations, and criminal activities when traveling. Travelers are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages. Enrollment will also make it easier to locate travelers abroad in case of an emergency.
  • There is no immediate impact on business, but employers should be aware of the change to the alert and inform employees who are U.S. citizens and traveling abroad. U.S. government facilities remain in a heightened state of alert and may temporarily close or suspend public services to assess their security.

Background: The status of Jerusalem is one of the central issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides making claims to the historic city. The decision reverses decades of U.S. policy that the status of Jerusalem will be part of a negotiated two-state solution. Since 2006, no country has located its embassy in Jerusalem; 80 countries currently have their embassies in Tel Aviv. The U.S. and other countries do, however, maintain consulates in Jerusalem.

BAL Analysis: Employers should stay aware of the global protests and potential for violence since President Trump’s statement of Dec. 6. BAL encourages employers to relay safety concerns in the travel alert to U.S. citizens traveling abroad as well as to employees traveling to or located in areas of protest.