On Wednesday, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and current president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Dore Gold, testified before a House subcommittee regarding the possibility of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Although President Trump campaigned on the promise of moving the embassy, he has yet to do so.
Gold presented a cogent and interesting argument as to why the embassy should be moved:
The U.S., of course, will have to consider many factors in making that decision, but [what] is often overlooked in the debate about the location of the U.S. embassy is why it matters.
The embassy question is a subset of a much more important issue: the need for Western recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. That recognition is vital for several reasons. What I'd like to discuss is the international interest; that interest concerns the protection of holy sites and assuring complete freedom of access to them.
Religious freedom and pluralism are core values which both our countries share. Protecting Jerusalem's holy sites is a responsibility that the state of Israel assumed in law back in 1967 when Jerusalem was reunited after the Six Day War. For etched into the collective consciousness of all of us is what happened to Jerusalem when we were absent, and when we were barred from that city, and what has happened to the holy site since 1967, since Israel unified Jerusalem and protected access for all peoples and faiths.
What is clear from a brief survey is that only a free and democratic Israel will protect the holy sites of all the great faiths in Jerusalem. Let me stress, to the extent that the U.S. reinforces Israel's standing and Jerusalem, it is reinforcing core American and Western values of pluralism, peace, and mutual respect. And it is reinforcing the position of the only international actor that will protect these sites.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) asked Gold to elaborate on his contention that Israel can protect the holy sites, saying: "You mentioned the topic of Israel's ability to preserve the integrity of the status quo of the holy land sites. I find this interesting given that detractors of moving the embassy claim that it would be inflammatory and inciting. Can you expand on the ability of Israel to prove as a stabilizing force for religious exercise and speech, and ward off religious incitement? Do you think Israel's sovereignty with respect to Jerusalem would be a positive influence on religious pluralism throughout the region?"
In terms of protecting security and stability in that area, just go on the major holidays to the area of the Temple Mount. Come on Ramadan, and see how many tens of thousands of muslims are praying near the al-Aqsa Mosque because they can't even get into the al-Aqsa Mosque [because] it's so full. Come [on the] time of Christmas to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and see all the Christians who stream in for Christian holidays in the old city. And then come to the Western Wall, and see on the Jewish holidays, particularly the pilgrimage festivals like Passover, Shavout, and others. Come to the old city and pray at the Western Wall. Jerusalem works; it operates well. And changing or expressing uncertainty of any kind about Israel's position only feeds radical elements who want to argue that the Jewish people have no connection with Jerusalem, or feeds all kinds of other baseless theories.
Last but not least, I want to make this point because it is a current point that's very important. There is a sheikh named Raed Salah, who heads the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, which is basically part of the Muslim Brotherhood. He used to come to Jerusalem a lot. He has been running around Israel and the region saying Israel is undermining the foundations of the al-Aqsa Mosque, and this heats up the whole region, this lie. And, by the way, he has faced prosecution in the Israeli legal system.
But one of the things we have to do is expose this lie because frankly, the only one who ever threatened the foundations of any of the Muslim shrines has been him. When he led groups to dig out tons of archeological areas near the al-Aqsa Mosque, and created all kinds of problems which I don't have time to go into.
Israel is taking care of the holy sites, it has been taking care of the holy sites, and will continue to take care of them. And if you don't have a responsible power to protect the holy sites, you're setting up a recipe for the next regional conflict.