President Trump Orders Move of U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

On December 6, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the national capital of Israel and would move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. Reaction to the announcement was understandably mixed. Many loudly opposed it as “reckless,” warning of violent reactions and repercussions, especially among the Palestinians, who have long hoped that East Jerusalem would be the capital of a Palestinian state. Others praised the president for finally catching up to reality—that Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government, and has been for decades. Negative reactions at the United Nations included a December 18 Security Council resolution condemning the U.S. recognition, which the United States vetoed, and a December 21 vote of the General Assembly rejecting the decision.

In announcing the move of the embassy, Trump noted that he was fulfilling a campaign promise. He was also attempting to reverse a trend in U.S. policy toward Israel. In December 2016, the outgoing Obama administration refused to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, including those in East Jerusalem, as illegal. Previously, Trump affirmed Israel’s importance as a U.S. ally when he made Israel his first stop on his initial trip abroad in May. He was the first sitting U.S. president ever to visit the Old City of Jerusalem.

Israel made Jerusalem its modern capital in 1948, but the UN has denied Israel’s sovereign right to select its capital. In 1995, the U.S. Congress legislated the relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel in the Jerusalem Embassy Act. However, the law permitted the U.S. president to delay action for national-security reasons. Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all signed the waiver that postponed such recognition. Trump, too, signed the waiver, in June and December, but said the embassy move is now to proceed.

Determination of the “final status” of Jerusalem, which Israel captured during the Six-Day War in 1967, has been continually pushed into the future. Previous presidents’ hesitation to move the American embassy was based on concerns about the “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump claimed his action was “a long overdue step to advance the peace process.” The actual move of the embassy will likely take three to four years.

Image credit: © Dejan Gileski/Fotolia

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