Donald Trump on Wednesday became the first American president to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling his decision “nothing more or less than a recognition of reality” and that the move should not be interpreted as a departure from the U.S. stance of working toward a peace process and a “two-state solution” to the age-old Arab-Israeli conflict.
“In 1995, Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize that city as Israel’s Capital. This Act passed Congress by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, and was reaffirmed by a unanimous vote of the Senate only six months ago,” Trump said in remarks to the nation from the White House Wednesday afternoon.
But the law contained a clause that allowed the president to sign a “waiver” every six months that would delay its implementation. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama dutifully signed the waiver every six months.
Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital was one of the promises he made to those who voted for him in November 2016, and it’s now another promise he can cross off his list.
But the question still remains as to when the U.S. Embassy will actually be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That’s a process that could take years, and ABC News was quick to point out right after Trump’s 1 p.m. announcement, that the president stopped short of christening a new embassy in Jerusalem. He could have done that by simply reflagging an existing U.S. consulate in Jerusalem as the new U.S. Embassy but he didn’t.
Perhaps taking the more gradual route was a concession made in hopes of tempering the expected backlash of rioting Palestinian Muslims, who have already promised three “days of rage” in East Jerusalem and Gaza.
“Jerusalem is not just the heart of three great religions, but it is now also the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world,” Trump said. “Over the past seven decades, the Israeli People have built a country where Jews, Muslims, Christians, and people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience and beliefs.”
While Democrats largely blasted the decision, the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer actually advised Trump to go ahead and make the gutsy move.
Schumer told The Weekly Standard Tuesday that he recommended Trump declare Jerusalem the “undivided” capital of Israel.
Trump said his administration would continue to work toward a lasting peace deal acceptable to both sides, with borders and other sticky issues to be worked out by the two parties.
“The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides,” he said. “I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement.”
“There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement,” Trump added. “But we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation.”
He said it was time for younger, more moderate voices to be heard on the conflict.
“It’s time to respond to differences with reasoned debate, not bloodshed and violence,” he said.
If it happens as Trump has promised, the U.S. will be the first nation in the world to place an embassy in Jerusalem.
As Israelis celebrated the announcement, Palestinians planned mass riots.
“Finally, we have a president who is both a believer in the word of God, and a man who has the courage, the chutzpah to do what is right,” said Joel Richardson, a U.S. Bible teacher, filmmaker and author of multiple books on the Middle East, including “The Coming Battle for Jerusalem” and “Mystery Babylon.”
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and the city of the Great King. No doubt, many who rage against God’s word will throw hissy fits,” Richardson told WND. “Protests, threats and violence, however, will not stop the United States from acknowledging the truth. We will stand firm, and as a result the Lord will bless us.”
Like any sovereign nation, Israel has a right to determine where its capital should be, Trump said.
According to some reports, Trump has the secret backing of Saudi Arabia, home base of Islam’s prophet and most holy mosque, to make this move. That in itself could give pause to some Christian leaders who would otherwise be jubilant about finally recognizing Israel’s right to Jerusalem.
European leaders in Britain, France, Germany and Sweden all criticized the move, as did the U.S. establishment media. The Washington Post, for instance, posted a headline that quoted the Swedish foreign minister calling Trump’s decision “catastrophic.”
These denouncements come on the heels of the United Nations passing six resolutions condemning Israel on Dec. 1, which the U.N. declared “Palestine Day.”
But Richardson said all of the predictions of doom remain to be seen.
“Muslims must recognize that the reason the Lord chose Jerusalem to be the city from where Jesus, the Jewish King, would rule the world is because he loves all the peoples of the world,” he said. “When Israel prospers, all the world prospers. For now, we stand with the State of Israel. We long, however, for the King to return and restore the Kingdom of Israel. Then, as the Scriptures state, ‘the knowledge of God will cover the Earth, as the waters cover the sea.”
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said President Trump’s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the announcement to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a “bold and welcomed move – a move that recognizes the facts as they are.”
“This is a bold and welcomed move by President Trump – a move that recognizes the facts as they are – that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state of Israel,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, which has an office in Israel. “By officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States sends a powerful message to the world – the U.S. remains committed to pursuing and achieving peace in the Middle East. Further, the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem not only reflects the correct course of action, but also complies with both U.S. and international law.”
Another U.S.-based group that has been lobbying for the White House to move the embassy is Liberty Counsel, led by Mat Staver
“President Trump’s affirmation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel represents a significant and long-overdue shift in U.S. policy,” said Staver, who is also president of Christians in Defense of Israel, and founder/chairman of Covenant Journey.
“In every country worldwide, the U.S. respects the choice of the nation state and locates its embassy in the capital,” Staver said. “However, the embassy in Israel is in Tel Aviv, despite the fact that Israel designates Jerusalem as its capital and despite the fact that Congress voted to move the embassy to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 passed the Senate by 93-5 and the House by 374-37 to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem by requiring the withholding of State Department funds if was not moved. However, the law was never implemented because of opposition from former Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama.”