On Tuesday, the White House announced that President Trump would declare that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and that the government would begin the process of moving the American embassy to the Israeli capital. He will sign a six-month waiver designed to put off the actual legal obligation to move the embassy, however.
This move follows a day of Trump calling Middle Eastern leaders including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who threatened the outbreak of violence and said there would be no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital; Saudi King Salman, who suggested that such an announcement would “harm peace negotiations and increase tension in the region”; and the King of Jordan, who warned of “dangerous repercussions.”
Trump’s move would be a powerful one, a legal one, and a wise one. Here are seven reasons why.
1. Jerusalem Is The Eternal Capital Of Israel. Jerusalem is only important because the Jews made it important; it was the capital of the kingdom of Israel, the site of the Temple, and the wellspring of Judaic thought for millennia. Both Christianity and Islam value Jerusalem because Judaism did. The dream of Jerusalem has animated the Jewish people for its entire existence; there is a reason the Psalms (137:5) state, “If I forget thee, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.” Jerusalem is mentioned hundreds of times in the Prophets and Writings (during the time of the Torah, it was not yet called Jerusalem). By contrast, Jerusalem is not mentioned at all in the Koran. If Jews do not have a historic claim to Jerusalem, they have no historic claim to any part of Israel, including Tel Aviv.
2. Congress Has Long Recognized Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital. In 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, requiring the movement of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The act also said that Jerusalem should be undivided and be recognized as the capital of Israel. The executive branch has refused to implement the law thanks to both political and separation of powers concerns. Trump would merely be stamping Congressional law with approval. That law, by the way, passed 93-5 in the Senate and 374-37 in the House.
3. Recognizing Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital Recognizes Israel’s Sovereignty. By removing the United States from the position of pressuring Israel to sacrifice its historic, religious, strategic capital, Israel will now be able to negotiate on its own behalf. That means that the U.S. will no longer be in a position to twist the arm of our closest ally in order to pursue separate strategic interests. Imagine the United States pressuring Great Britain to hand over all of Belfast to the IRA. That’s what the U.S. has been doing to Israel for years.
4. Recognizing Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital Will Minimize Violence. Every time negotiations fail, the Palestinians threaten violence and participate in terrorism. The sticking point for such negotiations has generally been Jerusalem — that’s the excuse the Palestinian Authority and Hamas use to launch campaigns of terror, to international approval thanks to the international community’s refusal to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They hope that using violence as a tactic will earn concessions from Israel, or pressure from the West on Israel. By leading the charge to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States will be sending the unmistakable signal that violence over Jerusalem will not be tolerated, and that pressure tactics through murder will earn no rewards.
5. Showing The United States Will Not Be Bullied By Terrorists Is Good Policy. The entire Oslo Accords was based on a blackmail program: Palestinians vowed not to murder Jews if Jews turned over land. That deal wasn’t just blackmail, it was a lie: Israel offered many generous peace deals, and the Palestinians responded with terror waves. The United States shouldn’t participate in such blackmail. If the Palestinians threaten violence, Trump should drop the other shoe: he should refuse to authorize the release of foreign aid to the terrorist government. There’s no reason taxpayers should be paying terrorists in the first place.
6. Recognizing Reality Makes Peace More Possible. A few days ago, the Saudi monarchy reportedly summoned Palestinian leadership and told them to support a peace deal with the Israelis. That deal would retain major Israeli settlement blocs, prevent the establishment of a Palestinian standing army, and leave the PA without Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital. By declaring Jerusalem Israel’s undivided capital, the United States would remove any other option from the table, thereby pressuring both the Saudis and the Palestinians into accepting that deal.
7. Recognizing Jerusalem Means Cementing The Anti-Iranian Alliance. President Obama's horrific foreign policy united Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel against Iran. But that alliance cannot be cemented until realities are recognized by all parties. Just as George H.W. Bush should have allowed Israel to join the coalition against Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War in order to force the Muslim states to recognize that their common interests with Israel outstripped their differences, Trump would be right to make clear to all parties that Israel has control over its own capital, and that the price of alliance is recognition of reality.
Jerusalem is, was, and always will be Israel’s capital. Failing to recognize that is a slap in the face to history, to reality, and to Israel itself. If Trump does what is necessary, he’ll deserve credit not just for bravery, but for decency.