Seven decades of American foreign policy are now forever altered with the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by the United States. On Wednesday afternoon, President Trump declared Jerusalem the capital city of Israel, and directed his State Department to begin preparations to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they have failed to deliver. I believe this to be in this to be in the best interest of America and the peace process,” he said.
President Trump said Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to determine its own capital. He explained that Israel’s government activities are fully conducted from Jerusalem already. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality,” he said.
The president made it clear that his statement was not a departure from America’s commitment to lasting peace. “The United States remains deeply committed to helping negotiate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both parties. The U.S. would recognize a two-state solution if that is the decision of all parties,” he said.
“This sacred city should call forth the best in humanity; not pull us down and back to the old fights that have become too predictable. Today we call for calm, for moderation and the voice of tolerance to prevail over the voices of hate,” said President Trump.
While the move has been met with promises of violence from countries surrounding Israel, many in the organized Jewish community have long awaited this day. Then-candidate Donald Trump made a campaign promise at the AIPAC conference in March, 2016, and often repeated it throughout his campaign, that he would move the American embassy to Jerusalem.
To a cheering, standing crowd of thousands in Washington, he said, “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem. And we will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel.”
While the move has prompted security concerns and upgraded IDF security readiness, it has been met by most in the pro-Israel community as the culmination of a decades-long desire. “We are grateful for the president fulfilling his campaign promise and, indeed, America’s promise of recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the State of Israel,” said Englewood’s Dr. Ben Chouake, founder and co-president of NORPAC.
“We realize this will be used as an excuse by many adversaries of Israel, led by anti-Semites, to cause trouble, but it’s always been America’s policy to do the right thing and deal with America’s adversaries earlier rather than later. Bravo to this administration,” he added.
In Jerusalem, Bergenfield native Rabbi Steve Burg, who is director general of Aish HaTorah, said, “We are eternally grateful to the United States of America for its awesome support of world Jewry and Israel in particular.” He added that Aish HaTorah’s location in the Old City has led to security concerns and they were taking as much preventative action as possible. “We hope that our neighbors will take any potential announcements in peace but it is good to know that the Israeli Police and Tzahal are ready.
“It is amazing that in 70 years since Israel established statehood and proclaimed Jerusalem our eternal capital we Jews have never proclaimed ‘a day of rage’ while the rest of the world ignored the reality,” said Rabbi Burg.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told CNN that he cannot worry about violence as a repercussion of this activity. “The state of Israel would never be what it is today if we would be deterred by violence,” he said.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said the following, “I applaud the U.S. administration's decision today to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It is a bold, courageous move that is long overdue, and is especially significant coming from Israel’s closest ally. Both Jews and Christians around the world have prayed for this day, which rights a historic wrong by affirming to the world that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”
Trump’s triumvirate of advisers with close ties to the Zionist community is well-known, and it includes US Ambassador David Friedman, Special Representative for International Negotiations and Teaneck native Jason Greenblatt and Senior White House Aide and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
On Monday, it was widely reported that Trump had missed the deadline to sign the waiver to again delay implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which, since 1998 when it was implemented, has been signed by each sitting president every six months based on national security concerns. In 1995, the act overwhelmingly passed the Senate by a vote of 93 to 5 and by the House of Representatives by a vote of 374 to 37, but Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama all signed waivers semi-annually to delay the implementation based on their belief that its enactment would incite national security and foreign policy concerns. Trump, himself, signed the waiver once so far in his presidency, this past June and signed it again on Wednesday after his statement, since construction of the new embassy will take time.
At that time, The White House said the president still stood by his promise to move the embassy. “President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when,” a spokesman told the Times of Israel.
“It’s a question of when, not if,” the official said, adding that Trump “doesn’t think the timing is right, right now.” The official added: “In timing such a move, he will seek to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.”
It appears the timing is now right for Trump. As it became clear that the White House would be honoring his campaign promise this week, the European Union and the Palestinian Authority lined up against the move along with the following countries: Jordan, France, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Palestine, Morocco, Kuwait, Germany, Iraq and others. The Palestinian Authority said it would also cut off contact with U.S. diplomats. And Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally in the region, cautioned against doing anything that would “obstruct the ongoing efforts to revive the peace process.”
A Palestinian security official told Ynet that the decision would “explode the situation and the streets. We will go back to zero and it could ignite an intifada.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Al-Jazeera that it will cut diplomatic ties with Israel over the reports. Such a move would be a “red line” for Muslims, he said on Tuesday.
The Palestinians' representative to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, told the BBC that the changes to US policy on Jerusalem amounted to a “kiss of death” for the two-state solution in peace efforts.”This is the last straw that will break the camel's back,” he said.
According to JNS, Hamas on Saturday called to “renew the Jerusalem intifada,” while Abbas’s adviser, Mahmoud Habash, said that “the world will pay a price” for American recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Reports on Twitter noted that Hamas had designated this Friday as a “day of rage,” to protest the move.