Farley Weiss

President Elect Trump should recognize a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

There is a shock in the world that President Elect Trump, unlike past US presidents, may make good on his promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing it as Israel’s capital would signify that Trump will comply with US law as expressed in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.   However, there are numerous efforts to either derail this move or to limit the importance of the move.  Will Trump succumb to the pressure of these efforts?

One effort to stop the move is led by both Palestinian Authority head negotiator Saeb Erakat, Jordan, and Secretary of State Kerry.  They have all publicly declared that such a move of the Embassy to Jerusalem will lead to an explosion of violence  in the Middle East. Erakat says that if the US Embassy is moved to Jerusalem then US Embassies will not be safe in the Arab world.  He argues that such a move will end the peace process.

However,  there has been no peace process for a long time as the PA has refused to negotiate with Israel.  Moreover, the Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority need the US more than the US needs them and once the US puts them on notice that such threats will not be countenanced, then the Arab countries will take action against such threats.  Just like Egypt agreed to not submit UN resolution 2334 after being asked to by Trump, so will other Arab countries fall in line if Trump makes it clear that he will not accept a different policy.  The Arab countries view Iran as their No. 1 enemy and that is their priority.  In Trump they have a person who shares their concern.

The second such effort is being led by the likes of former US Ambassador to Israel and State Department Official, Martin Indyk.  Indyk wrote in the NY Times that President Elect Trump should simultaneously move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and open a US Embassy to the Palestinian Authority in East Jerusalem.   In other words, he thinks the Trump Administration should unilaterally recognize Palestinian Authority sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which includes the holiest sites in Judaism, namely the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.  This idea is unbelievably outrageous and would be a catastrophe.  Indyk is known for having failed in his numerous high level positions to advance the peace process.  His failures have come about because the US policy that he helped form has been one of constantly pressuring America’s ally Israel to make concessions and allowing the Palestinian Authority to make no concessions and continue with their maximum demands.

For example, in the Oslo Accords in 1993, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to negotiate over Judea and Samaria (The West Bank), Gaza and Jerusalem.   Over the past 23 years Israel has given up all of Gaza, and relinquished control of around 40% of Judea and Samaria (The West Bank).  During the same time, the Palestinian Authority lost control of Gaza to Hamas and Hamas launched three wars against Israel during which time they have launched missiles to terrorize Israel’s civilian population.

In the land under their control in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), the Palestinian Authority has bread a culture of hatred towards Jews that includes lauding terrorists murderers as heroes and paying the families of the terrorists reward money for their actions.   Town squares are named after the terrorists and the television programs they produce and show encourages their children to become terrorists.  The more Jews they murder, the more acclamation the terrorists and their families receive.  It is not surprising that in an international study the ADL found that 90% of Palestinian Arabs have anti-semitic views, the most of any people in the world.   President Abbas has refused to condemn the most recent truck attack that murdered four Israelis (two of which were Americans as well) and wounded many more.  Abbas’ position on the recent terrorist attack is not surprising considering the fact that Abbas became famous as a terrorist himself partly with his financing of the Olympic Munich massacre.  Only a couple years ago, Abbas extolled one of the Munich Olympic terrorists, Abu Daoud,  as a hero to the Palestinian Arab people.

It is refreshing that Trump has made it clear that he will not continue failed American policies even if such policies have been in place for many years.  The American policy of increasing aid to the Palestinian Authority while they extol terrorists, including those who murdered Americans, needs to end.   It unsurprisingly did not work.

Israel has seen the failure of its past government’s concessions leading to the land being given up becoming a safe haven for terrorists and creating far greater insecurity to Israel.  No longer will Israel consider dividing Jerusalem as the vast majority of Israelis only support parties opposed to such a division.  They already know that offering such a division did not bring peace but instead were rejected by the Palestinian Authority and brought only more terror.  The fundamental reason why is because the Palestinian Authority has never given up their hope to destroy Israel.  Even their supposed recognition of Israel with Oslo was not a real recognition as they have made clear that they will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.  It reminds one of the famous quote of former Secretary of State Kissinger that ” if one is a murderer they can also be a liar.”

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 envisioned taking Jerusalem off of the negotiating table when it was overwhelmingly approved by Congress with a 90% majority.  Senator Robert Dole said during his speech concerning the Jerusalem Embassy Act that “No other city has been the capital of the same country, inhabited by the same people, speaking the same language, worshiping the same G-d today as it was 3,000 years ago.  And yet the US does not maintain its Embassy in Jerusalem. ”  Dole once opposed the move but changed his mind by saying that “Delaying the process of moving the Embassy now only sends a signal of false hopes.”  Dole understood that by allowing the Palestinian Authority to maintain a demand for Jerusalem would lead to a stalemate in negotiations and therefore was hurting the chances for a successful peace process.  Dole was right then and his words are still right today.

The originator of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, Senator Jon Kyl, said at the time “United States Middle East diplomacy should be based on honesty and on the power and loyalty to our friends and our principles.  Moving the Embassy to Jerusalem should aid in any peace between Israel and her neighbors by sending a clear and unambiguous message that the status of Jerusalem is not and never will be negotiable.”  Kyl noted that twice a year for the last 2,000 years the Jewish people have proclaimed next year in Jerusalem.  Further, Kyl noted that Israel “restored the holy city as a place open to all for worship.”

Trump needs to proceed with the US Embassy move to Jerusalem.  The move would make it in compliance with the Jerusalem Embassy Act which is US law.  The Act made it clear that it recognized a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Section 3 of the Act states that “Jerusalem should remain an undivided city… Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel.”  Shortly after the passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, Prime Minister Rabin said at a ceremony honoring its passage that “In Israel we all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem, the continuation of its existence as the capital of the state of Israel.  There is only one Jerusalem.”

The understanding of the Senators who voted overwhelmingly for the Jerusalem Embassy Act was that the waiver provision in the Act only applied to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem but not to recognizing a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.   A July 13, 1999 letter to President Clinton signed by 84 Senators, including at the time Senator Kerry, stated that “The waiver authority provided in the Jerusalem Embassy Act does not apply to the provisions of the Act, other than the sanctions provisions.   One of those other provisions contains a statement of US policy that is the law of the land and is not subject to waiver: Jerusalem should remain united and should be recognized as Israel’s capital, with our Embassy located there. ”  The letter continues “As permanent status negotiations approach, we expect America’s approach to Jerusalem to be based on US law, as stated in the Jerusalem Embassy Act. ”

It should be noted that Secretary Kerry cites his strong Senate record of support for Israel as a sign of his friendship to Israel.  However,  when Kerry’s actions as Secretary of State includes taking a position on Jerusalem that is diametrically opposed to what he did as a US Senator then the concern is properly raised by Israel as to what happened to their former friend?

History has shown that efforts to divide Jerusalem have not succeeded and have not bought the parties closer to peace.  Israel will not have secure borders without full control of Jerusalem.  Further, Israel’s control of Jerusalem is the only way to safeguard the holy sites in Jerusalem to Jews and Christians.   Israel should no longer be the only country that the US does not locate its embassy in its capital.  It is hoped that President Elect Trump does not succumb to the threats and moves forward with recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital and moves the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

About the Author
Farley Weiss is the president of the National Council of Young Israel, a member of the Conference of Presidents that represents around 25,000 Orthodox Jewish families and around 130 synagogues across America, the president of the intellectual property law firm of Weiss & Moy, P.C. with offices in Scottsdale, AZ, Boca Raton, FL, and Las Vegas, NV. He has authored opeds in the Arizona Republic, The Jerusalem Post, The Forward, and Hamodia, and has spoken around the country on political issues affecting Israel and American Jewry.
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