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COLUMN: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel

December 11, 2017
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion….If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!”

The words of the psalmist in Psalm 137 evoke the longing that the Jewish people felt during their captivity in Babylon for the ancient city of Jerusalem, the site of the original Temple of Solomon. The historic and spiritual link between Jerusalem and Israel harkens back thousands of years to biblical times. It is the location of the Western Wall, the last remnant of the Second Temple and the holiest site in Judaism.

Last week, President Trump announced that his administration would fulfill his promise to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from modern Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, officially acknowledging that the capital of our closest Middle East ally is indeed the ancient city. The Israeli legislature, supreme court, and executive branch are based in Jerusalem. The President’s announced shift would begin to treat Israel the way we treat every other sovereign nation in relation to its official seat of government.

President Trump’s announcement seems at first glance to be a momentous step, but in reality it complies with longstanding U.S. foreign policy. Since 1995, when the Jerusalem Embassy Act passed on bipartisan votes of 93-5 in the Senate and 374-37 in the House, U.S. law has provided for the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Subsequent presidents of both parties have chosen to request waivers for the embassy’s relocation. President Trump has chosen to end that practice and finally implement this over-20-year-old law. 

The fulfilment of the longstanding U.S. promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem should not be used to negatively impact the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. In no version of a peace agreement has Jerusalem not been recognized as Israel’s capital, so this recognition should not be considered a concession, nor should it in any way be considered a deal breaker in the peace process.

The American people remember and respect Israel’s historic connection to Jerusalem. I applaud President Trump’s decision to recognize the fact that Jerusalem has been and will continue to be Israel’s official capital.