By Nathaniel Valyo, National News Writer
In a bold move last Wednesday, December 6, President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and announced plans to move the U.S. Embassy there as well.
Mr. Trump, however, signed a waiver which would keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for six more months. Officials say the process of moving the embassy entirely would take a few years, at least.
Even more notable is Mr. Trump’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that has been condemned by many in the region. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as their capital, but Palestine recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of their future sovereign state. According to Palestinian authorities and Muslim leaders, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was an unacceptable move.
Jerusalem has long been a hotly disputed area of land. The Old City is home to one of the holiest mosques in Islam, while also being home to the holiest place in Judaism and Christianity, making it a boiling pot for disputes and violence.
In the international community, Israel’s claim on the entire city has not been recognized, making Mr. Trump the first world leader to recognize Israeli control over the city’s maximum extents. He is the first American president to do so since Israel gained independence in 1948. Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a significant promise during his 2016 presidential campaign, with Trump solemnly stating in a June 2016 speech to AIPAC, a powerful U.S.-Israeli relations lobbying group, that “we will move the American Embassy to the eternal capital city of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”
Mr. Trump’s decision was praised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government. Amos Yadlin, executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said, “The U.S. recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a positive and important step, particularly amid Palestinian efforts to undermine the historic ties between the Jewish nation and the City of David.” Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein said that the movement of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is long overdue, and that not moving it “has not brought us closer to peace.” The move was also supported by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, Mr. Trump’s special envoy.
A majority of people, however, in the United States and the Middle East alike, oppose the move. King Salman of Saudi Arabia told Mr. Trump that “moving the U.S. Embassy is a dangerous step that provokes the feelings of Muslims around the world,” in a phone call to him last Tuesday. King Abdullah II of Jordan also condemned the move, citing that “Jerusalem is the key to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world.”
The American consulate in Jerusalem forbade employees from going to Jerusalem’s Old City for fear of attacks and violence. Additionally, the U.S. State Department recommended that U.S. embassies around the world increase their security for preventative measures.
In a 1995 law, Congress instructed the U.S. President to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and required him to sign a waiver every six months if he wished to delay it. Every president since 1995 has waived the order, making President Trump the first to not do so.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 12th print edition.
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