March 8, 2018

Trump Administration to Move Embassy, Recognize Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

Samantha Rigante ‘21

Despite growing backlash from the UN and America’s allies, on December 6, President Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Trump is the first of three past presidents to follow through on this campaign promise. Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton all vowed that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, although none took the crucial step of declaring it.
Trump announced the reversal of the longtime U.S. policy in a midday speech.
“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver,” Trump said about the move. “Today, I am delivering.”
Many of Trump’s base supporters, pro-Israel conservatives and Congressional Republicans lauded the move. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said in a press release, “I enthusiastically commend President Trump for today’s courageous and heroic decision.”  
“Today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said of the move in an official press statement. “I commend President Trump for following U.S. law and recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel.”
In spite of the praise from Trump supporters and Republicans, numerous Arab nations criticized the President’s remarks, including Palestinians.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the move, saying that “The decision by President Trump will not change the reality of the city of Jerusalem and will not give any legitimacy to the Israelis on this issue.” He also said that the move would “lead us into wars that will never end.”
Many Palestinians also took to the streets to protest the move in Gaza City. Hamas said that the decision would “open the gates of hell.”
Palestinians believe that East Jerusalem will one day be the capital of a sovereign Palestinian state. Since the creation of an independent Israel in 1947, Israelis and Palestinians have fought consistently over the sovereignty of Jerusalem.
Currently, protests have largely been taking place in Jerusalem and in the Palestinian-majority areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since December, four Palestinians have been killed in clashes between Israeli Armed Forces and Palestinians protesting Trump’s announcement, along with hundreds more injured. Palestinians protested by rolling flaming tires down hills and throwing firebombs. No Israelis have been killed yet.
Originally established as a city under international administration, Jerusalem’s ownership has been contested by Israel, Jordan and Palestine. Until 1967, Jews were not allowed to visit the Old City in Jerusalem because of an Israeli-Jordanian agreement that stated Jews did not own the Old City of Jerusalem. After being conquered back during the 1967 Six Day War, Israel has had jurisdiction over the city.
Trump received almost immediate backlash from many U.S. allies and many Democrats on Capitol Hill condemned the move.
Britain, France and Germany all spurned the move. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, had her spokesman say in a tweet that “German government does not support this position, because the status of Jerusalem is to be resolved in the framework of a two-state solution.”
French President Emmanuel Macron also disagreed with the move, calling it, “a regrettable decision that France does not approve of and goes against international law and all the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council.”
The UN’s General Assembly chastised the move, with a 128 to 9 majority commanding that the United States revoke its recognition of the contested city as capital of Israel. The resolution, however, is largely symbolic and shows just how far American foreign policy has been isolated from the rest of the world.
“What we witnessed here in the Security Council is an insult. It won’t be forgotten,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said of the vote.
Israel, however, praised the move, with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu saying, “Thank you President Trump for today's historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Jewish people and the Jewish state will be forever grateful.”
Israel itself considers Jerusalem to be its capital, with all major government buildings housed in West Jerusalem. Many Israelis believe that Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel and that American recognition of this is a type of American endorsement of Israel.

“I think they just repeated what all Israelis believe, that Jerusalem is actually the capital of Israel and it doesn’t change anything,” one of GOA’s Rishonim, Shaked, said. “This is just another step of America showing it cares about Israel and the bond and the connection between the two.”

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