Jerusalem - Israel's Capital

We are approaching the season of the year when many of our thoughts will turn to Jerusalem. Some will sing songs and others will review the history of the people who first declared that city to be holy. The season of Chanukah begins on December 12 and extends to the 20th, and of course we Christians celebrate the Christmas season 5 days later. To this day the typical greeting among our Jewish brothers and sisters at various times but particularly at Passover and at the end of the Seder meal is, “le-shanah ha-ba’ah bi-Yerushalayim,”  “Next year in Jerusalem.” The fact is that Israel calls Jerusalem its capital, and the US Embassy is located in the nation’s capital of every country with whom we had diplomatic relations, except for Israel. That error of history was rectified by President Trump this week and I commend the Administration for their decision.

Historically, Israel has been a staunch democratic ally. Earlier this year, I mentioned my support for President Trump’s campaign promise to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. With so many of the President’s initiatives and campaign promises stalled because of inaction by Congress, both by the recalcitrant democrats as well as republicans, this was a laurel waiting to be seized. No Congressional approval is necessary, just a campaign promise the President of the United States honored, not by Executive Order, but merely acting to enforce an existing Congressional mandate. President Trump promised he would; President Trump kept his promise.   

In 1995 the 104th Congress, by a unanimous voice vote, approved the Jerusalem Embassy Act. That act stated that the USA should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move our embassy there. Did I say it was a unanimous vote?  Despite that approval, Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama failed to act to move the embassy. It has become a political football that has been punted for 24 years. Oh, there are a variety of reasons routinely proffered:  Palestine will be upset, it might be considered by some an act of war, it will stall the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks (how are they going?), it will cause hard feelings among Israel’s neighbors, and the old favorite, the United Nations will be angry. It is quite likely that not moving the embassy will not motivate Palestine to be a closer friend of the USA -- the last 24 years suggests not.

There was even the fear expressed by at least three administrations that moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem because of a Congressional vote muddies the water between the auspices of Congress and the sole power invested by the Constitution in the Executive Branch to execute foreign policy. While some of the warnings about such a move may have credibility, I believe it was definitely time to make sure our actions follow our words.  President Trump did just that – he moved the embassy.
Since the 1995 act, the President must stipulate in writing every six months that it is not in the best interests of the USA to make the move at that time.  By beginning the process to move the embassy on December 1, 2017, the current administration honored one more campaign promise that the electorate voted for, and also assured Israel that the USA can be depended on to honor its international ethical commitments.  Thank you President Trump and Vice President Pence.