Last week, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said the U.S. Embassy will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
This action has been greeted by many commentators as folly, a “giveaway” to Israel, or a reckless act that will further destabilize the Middle East. It is none of those things. It is a promise kept.
There were two reasons not to move the embassy and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The first is that, though it has been talked about for years — Congress endorsed precisely this move in 1995 — the move had always been deferred by presidents and secretaries of state. And inaction, or delay, has its own wisdom: What if this step makes things worse? Let’s put it off.
That’s not a terrible reason not to recognize Jerusalem, or not to do anything. But it is not a very good reason.
President Donald Trump holds up a proclamation to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
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The second reason is related: Some Palestinians, and sundry enemies of Israel, will be upset and will riot.
But many of these people wish to drive Israel into the sea. They will never consider peace under any arrangement. And the people who will consider peace, and would favor a two-state solution, would be Palestinians willing to affirm Israel’s right to exist. Admitting that Jerusalem has been the center of Judaism for, the scholars say, 3,000 years is simply an extension of affirming Israel’s right to exist. It has always been here and it will always be here.
A two-state solution is based, in part, on a dual reality. The city of Jerusalem is the historic home of two peoples, and should be the capital of two, not neither, or none.
There are three good reasons to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The first is that it is reality. And it is difficult to progress in diplomacy based on the denial of reality.
Nixon went to China, and Barack Obama opened the door to Cuba, because it is hard to talk to people whose existence you deny. Both presidents did what was simply sane and long overdue. Denying the reality of Jerusalem as the capital only fed Arab delusion or American cowardice. And if the United States is ever to act as an effective broker between the Palestinians and the Israelis, we must resist delusion and be clear and honest about our alliance.
The second is our alliance. We have not only treaty obligations to Israel, but a moral obligation, based upon history and the failure of the West, including the United States, to stop, or even resist, the Holocaust. Israel is our friend and our military ally (one of the few). But, also, “political morality” is not always an oxymoron. Two parties, and two parties alone, guarantee the continued existence of Israel — Israel itself and the United States. The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not only a matter of reality but of ultimate respect and homage.
Finally, promises were made. Since the creation of Israel (since Harry Truman), virtually every U.S. president has promised, like Congress in 1995, to recognize Jerusalem as the capital. Donald Trump repeated the promise when running for president. One need not support the current Israeli prime minister, or past aggressions by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people, or the whole of the Trump foreign policy, to appreciate that an American president has at last kept his word.
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