In case you missed it, here is a link to watch the Trump statement on directing the State Dept. to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (about 12 minutes long):
(Or paste this link into your browser: https://youtu.be/Z6U4Oq3kfbQ.)
According to the Times of Israel, “The US sent its first consul to Jerusalem in 1844, more than a century before the State of Israel was founded. Some 13 years later, the administration established a permanent consular presence in the Old City. The mission on Agron Street was declared a Consulate General in 1928, representing the US in Jerusalem (East and West), the West Bank and Gaza ‘as an independent mission…”
Israel declared Jerusalem its capital in 1949. Its leaders, ministries, and supreme court reside in Jerusalem. Most government business is transacted in Jerusalem, where heads of state visit to meet with Israel’s leaders. Presidents have regularly stayed at the King David Hotel.
So when Bill Clinton failed to fulfill his campaign promise and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after he took office in 1993, the Congress passed The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 [Public Law No: 104-45 (11/08/1995)] declaring that the US recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that immediately the President should begin making plans for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. Congress passed the 1995 law with huge majorities (Senate: 93-5; House: 374 – 37). The law contained waivers that allowed the president to postpone enacting the law. Every president since then (including Trump) has used the waiver provisions to avoid moving the embassy.
The US has held land in the Talpiot section of West Jerusalem designated for an embassy since 1989. See here for more background. The US’ Jerusalem consulate is adjacent to this land and transacts business daily.
So, what is the problem with moving the embassy? Two main objections have been made in the past: 1. moving the embassy pre-judges the peace process and closes down the negotiations around Jerusalem; and 2. without a peace agreement moving the embassy will create considerable unrest in the West Bank (perhaps causing a third intifada) and the “Arab street” in other Arab nations. As to #1, the embassy move would be to uncontested land in West Jerusalem – land that is outside of negotiations in the peace processes of the past.
As to #2, over the years we’ve seen that most predictions by Middle East experts, diplomats, and pundits are wrong. Not moving the embassy for the last 22 years did not produce peace. Whether it avoided inflaming the Arab public remains to be seen – they’ve certainly been inflamed by issues much less significant than where the US embassy resides. Yet it is well-known that the “Arab street” outside of the Palestinian territories does not care much about the Palestinian claims to where the US embassy resides.
If Arab leaders were truly “leading” they would tell their populaces that this is nothing to be concerned about and avoid Arab street rage as well.
SFMEW’s prediction (Why not? We couldn’t be any worse than the other pundits): there will be a couple “days of rage” outside of the Palestinian territories, and then everyone will settle down. Inside of the West Bank and Gaza that “rage” may persist for a bit longer, but eventually it will die down as well. The Palestinian “street” really doesn’t want another intifada. Those who lived through the first two found it to be not very pleasant, and it didn’t get them anywhere.
Update – December 7, 2017
To read comments from some members of Congress click here.
Purchase your tickets to see Dr. Clive Lipchin. Because of the smaller venue seating is more limited than where we’ve held previous events. See more here.
Santa Fe Middle East Watch is a beneficiary organization of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico.