President Trump’s recent signing of a waiver delaying the American Embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem rewards Islamist terrorist threats and damages peace prospects. Rewarding such threats invariably leads to even more terror and more threats, damaging the U.S. national security interest in combating Islamist terror at home and abroad. America has delayed the embassy move every six months since 1995, and this has not brought peace any closer. Delaying the embassy move in fact impedes peace prospects by leading the Palestinian Arabs to believe that the eternal Jewish city of Jerusalem is on the table. Only if America stands with Israel will there be a possibility that the PA will drop its outrageous demands to dismember Jerusalem. As President Trump said during his 2016 AIPAC speech: “[W]hen the United States stands with Israel, the chances of peace really rise and rises exponentially.”
Delaying the move also harms the President’s credibility with America’s allies: In 2016, then-candidate Trump declared “the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one”; promised to “move the American embassy to the Jewish people’s eternal capital Jerusalem”; and emphasized “when I say something, I mean it, I mean it.” The U.S. embassy is located in the declared capital of every other nation, other than Israel. As long as the American embassy is not in Israel’s capital, Israel is being treated like a “second-class citizen.”
The President’s deeply disappointing signing of the waiver is somewhat ameliorated by the much-appreciated simultaneous White House statement reconfirming the President’s intention to move the embassy to Jerusalem, which noted: “the question is not if that move happens, but only when.” We continue to believe that the President will fulfill his promise.
However, the President should make “when” as soon as possible, and commit to a prompt firm deadline. The pro-Israel community has waited for the move for 50 years since Jerusalem’s reunification, and for 22 years since Congress overwhelmingly passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which requires the move.
With due respect, the reasoning given in the White House statement for the delay (“to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling [the President’s] solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests”) is erroneous.
Rewarding terrorist threats by delaying moving the embassy has not brought peace since Israel’s reestablishment in 1948 — it’s not going to work now. The reason there is no peace is because the Palestinian Arabs want to destroy all of Israel and continue to incite and pay terrorists to murder Jews — not because of the U.S. embassy’s location.
President Trump had a first-hand taste of the real problem when Palestinian Authority (PA) dictator Mahmoud Abbas lied to President Trump, in both Washington, D.C. and Bethlehem, about the PA/PLO’s terror incitement and payments to terrorists.
In reality, moving the embassy will encourage real peace. The PA/PLO and Hamas need to be disabused of their fantasy that they can wrest all or part of Jerusalem from the Jewish people. There was no peace when Jordan invaded and illegally occupied Jerusalem’s old city (1948-1967). Instead, Arab snipers and terrorists spent those years blowing up 58 synagogues, denying Jews access to their holiest sites, destroying 40,000 gravestones in the 3,000-year-old Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, persecuting Christians, and using the hills of eastern Jerusalem as a vantage point for shooting Jews in their homes and shooting Jewish children walking to and from school in the western portion of Jerusalem. The Jewish people cannot and will not return to those days.
Coincidentally, President Trump signed the waiver on Shavuot – one of the three pilgrimage festivals during which Jews brought gifts to the Temple in Jerusalem, as commanded in the Bible (Deuteronomy 16:16). The Shavuot holiday is one of the many testaments to the eternal Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Jerusalem contains Judaism’s holiest sites, was the capital of Jewish kingdoms throughout hundreds of years, is in the Jewish people’s daily and holiday prayers, and is mentioned 700 times in Jewish holy books. By contrast, Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran or the PLO Charter and was never a Palestinian Arab capital. During Jordan’s 19-year illegal occupation of eastern Jerusalem, Jordan kept its capital in Amman, and let Jerusalem become a slum, and no Arab rulers other than Jordan’s king even visited Jerusalem. Jews were the largest religious group in Jerusalem from at least the time of the first census in 1840.
Jews pray facing Jerusalem, while Muslims pray facing Mecca. The site of the Jewish Temple is called the Temple Mount — not a “mosque mount.” Until 1954, the Jerusalem Muslim Supreme Council’s published guide acknowledged that the Jerusalem Temple Mount’s “identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” Simply put, Jerusalem is holy to the Jewish people, and is not holy to Muslims.
We look forward to the President keeping his promise to move the embassy.
Elizabeth A. Berney, National Director of Special Projects at the Zionist Organization of America, assisted with this article.