Next year in Tel Aviv. That’s what some opponents of the proposed move of the American embassy to Jerusalem would like to hear. And to make sure that doesn’t happen, loud and enthusiastic support for both the move and for the movers behind it is necessary.
Proposing to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is nothing new. What is new is the prospect that it might actually be carried out. Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, requiring the federal government to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. All presidents since then campaigned to relocate the embassy. But once in office, none did; instead they all invoked a waiver in the law allowing them to delay the move for security reasons.
There is reason to hope that President elect Trump, who campaigned as the anti-politician, might actually deliver on his campaign promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president-elect, said the embassy move “is a very big priority for this president-elect, Donald Trump. He has made that very clear during the campaign. And as president-elect I’ve heard him repeat it several times privately, if not publicly.” Underscoring this priority is Trump’s choice of David Friedman for American ambassador to Israel, a fierce and early advocate of the Jerusalem embassy move, and his son in law Jared Kushner as Middle East peace envoy.
Perhaps the strongest evidence of Trump’s intentions is his pushback against the Obama administration for treating Israel “with such total disdain and disrespect”, following America’s abstaining from the UN’s resolution castigating the Jewish country. And Trump’s tweet, “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” has made him Israel’s foremost cheerleader on the world stage.
Obama’s unsurprising betrayal of the Jewish country was met with surprising condemnation by most American Jewish groups, many of which have been previously hesitant to criticize a president they identified with and supported. In a world of “red lines” waiting to be crossed, it appears that Obama’s repudiation of the “Jewishness” that is the basis of the Jewish state was a demarcation that Jewish organizations could not ignore. With his denunciation of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria as “occupied Palestinian territory”, in which an Israeli presence has “no legal validity”, Obama denounced history and exposed Israel to more terrorism on the ground and in the courts of world opinion.
With the expected exception of J Street and its cohorts, Jewish groups that had criticized David Freidman for being too staunch a supporter of Israel now criticize Obama for being too staunch a detractor. Even the ADL’s head Jonathan Greenblatt, who had served as special assistant to Obama, was forced to realize that his former boss turned out to be the Judas he spent eight years trying to pretend he wasn’t.
The stunning and perhaps revealing juxtaposition of Obama’s treachery towards Israel and the incoming administration’s devotion to the Jewish country should not be lost on Israel’s supporters. Or her enemies. While there have been rumblings of faint hearted pleas to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for fear of increased terrorism and opposition from Arab countries, now is not the time for buckling under. Now is the time for lovers of Israel, who have long championed Jerusalem as its eternal capital, to feel emboldened enough to push for that actualization.
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is more than a simple diplomatic affirmation of American allegiance to an ally. It’s a public and unequivocal declaration of Jerusalem’s intrinsic significance to Israel biblically, historically and religiously. And it’s a repudiation of the Arab myth of Jerusalem’s exclusive connection to Islam and by extension the myth of Palestinian nationhood.
Those who advise against such a move, including Arab leaders and even some Jewish ones, do so from a place of either intimidation or fear. Abbas’s threat that the relocation would trigger “a crisis we will not be able to come out from”, sounds all too familiar. Arabs have been threatening Jews since before 1948, and their scare tactics prove that Palestinians don’t need an excuse to murder Jews. Their existence alone is enough reason for terrorists to kill them. Last Sunday’s horrific terror attack in Jerusalem is just another example of their ongoing battle against Jewish life in the Middle East.
Similarly, John Kerry’s warning that an embassy move would cause “an absolute explosion in the region” should give pause to anyone naïve enough to believe him. His recent hostile rant against the Jewish state certifies his having Israel’s worst interests at heart. And perhaps his cautionary admonition is an attempt to deflect from his own dismal failure as Secretary of State, which undoubtedly leaves behind an “absolute explosion in the region”.
Surely the Sunni states, with whom Israel has been cultivating relationships with, in common cause against Iran, are more concerned with the Shiite threat than with the zip code of their neighbor’s embassy. And while Jordan immediately warned that such a move would “inflame the Islamic and Arab streets”, there is reason to believe they fear inflaming their own streets from the Palestinian threat within.
Two weeks ago the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the UN Security Council for censuring Israel and urging the Obama administration to veto any similar actions before leaving office. And it came a day after Senators Macro Rubio, Ted Cruz and Dean Heller introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, which seeks to withhold certain funds from the State Department until the move is completed.
This should spark hope in lovers of Israel. And it should motivate even those who did not vote for Trump. Pointing to possible pitfalls that an embassy move might entail does nothing to secure long term security for the State of Israel. Rather, it enables Israel’s enemies to continue fighting behind progressive platitudes and fraudulent wishes for security.
America and Israel now have an opportunity to pivot away from the wrong side of history and truth. They can start with moving the embassy from Tel Aviv. This year in Jerusalem.