Today (May 14) the U.S. embassy will officially move from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital city.
The move, widely regarded as historic and “momentous” for Israel and the Jewish people, will coincide with the anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence 70 years ago on the Gregorian calendar. It also comes one day after Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim), which marks the reunification of the city during the 1967 Six Day War, and the return of Jewish heritage and holy sites to Jewish sovereignty.
In moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump isn’t just fulfilling another campaign promise. The reality is that he’s correcting a historic wrong done to an ally—and is also honoring the will of the American people.
A Festive Occasion in Israel’s Capital City
Preparations for the ceremony marking the official opening of the embassy in Jerusalem have been underway for months.
While there was some speculation that Trump might attend the event today, he’ll be speaking via live video-conference instead.
Roughly 800 guests will attend today’s ceremony, representing 33 countries. The U.S. delegation includes John Sullivan, deputy secretary of state, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his daughter Ivanka Trump (four U.S. Senators will attend the embassy opening along with 10 congressmen—all Republicans).
— orli sagi❤️ 🇮🇱🇺🇸🇮🇱🇺🇸💙 (@SagiOrli) May 13, 2018
I am honored to join the delegation representing @POTUS, his Admin & the American people at this momentous ceremony commemorating the opening of our new US Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel. We will pray for the boundless potential of the US-Israel alliance & we will pray for peace. pic.twitter.com/ulYbJAfTcL
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) May 12, 2018
Of the 28 European Union countries, only 4 sent representatives to Sunday night’s reception (Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania).
The entire city has been decked out for the occasion. Here are just a couple of images that have been posted to social media and YouTube in recent days. There are many more online:https://twitter.com/joelleyden/status/993606378651619329
The Embassy Move: Good for the Jews, and for Peace
Over the weekend, a small number of Israelis (reportedly about 100) convened in downtown Jerusalem to protest the embassy move:
In the U.S., the fringe group If Not Now (INN) is organizing for this morning an ‘action of civil disobedience’ in Washington, D.C., where they’re planning to express “moral outrage” at the embassy move.
We’ve recently written about INN, highlighting how non-representative it is of left-wing Zionist positions, Group plans to infiltrate Jewish summer campus to turn campers against Israel.
INN’s criticism goes well beyond the charge that Trump’s decision on the embassy was badly timed or that it was rolled-out ineffectively. Critics who made that claim, by and large, acknowledged the ‘rightness’ of the move, whereas INN activists claim it is morally unacceptable.
But the fact is that most Israelis and Jews worldwide have supported Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, and to move the embassy there. That’s true even of anti-Netanyahu opposition politicians, who have joined with the Prime Minister to wholeheartedly embrace it.
As Austria’s ambassador to Israel Martin Weiss remarked yesterday:
This is a day of celebration for Israelis across the political spectrum. If you ask any Israeli on the street, whether he’s left-wing or right-wing, what the capital of Israel is, they’ll look at you weird. It’s obvious.”
Basically, as we’ve highlighted in a number of prior posts, the relocation of the embassy should be seen as an important and much-needed symbolic corrective to the Palestinian position that Jews have no authentic historical or spiritual connection to the city—which is why most Jewish people who care about Israel and their Jewish faith and heritage love that Trump has done this:
The embassy move counterbalances the ugly global campaign to deny Jewish attachment to Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount (Har HaBayit)—Judaism’s holiest site. As we’ve noted, this campaign has long been spearheaded by the Palestinian Authority and its allies at the United Nations, UNESCO attempts to erase Jewish connection to Temple Mount.
Trump’s decision to move the embassy also doesn’t in any way prevent peace. In fact, it can jumpstart peace by establishing an important red line for future negotiations and by incentivizing the Palestinians to soften their own uncompromising negotiating positions on the city, Prof. Miriam Elman in WaPo: Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, for peace sake.
You can read here Obama’s ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro’s assessment of why the embassy move is an “overdue step” that recognizes the reality of Israel’s capital and isn’t at all counter-productive to peace (see also Gilad Erdan’s recent assessment in Newsweek):
It's time to set the record straight! This is an historic event that will correct injustice and advance a real #peace. Threats of #terror must never deter us from doing what is right.https://t.co/Ytd4XN5aFQ
— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) May 11, 2018
Complying with the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act
It’s important to understand that Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem is an instance of the executive branch being responsive to Congress.
A brief historical overview explains why this is so:
In 1949, Israel declared the western section of Jerusalem as its capital and moved the Knesset, the presidency, the courts and other government agencies there. Most of the international community, including the U.S., denied recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (although some countries, primarily from South America, did locate their embassies there for a time).
In October 1995 the U.S. Congress sought to rectify this absurd situation with the passage by overwhelming majorities (Senate 93-5, House 374-37) of the Jerusalem Embassy Act. It recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and instructed the president to move the embassy there by May 1999. At regular intervals ever since (most recently on June 5, 2017, by unanimous vote in the Senate), Congress has reaffirmed this law and has demanded that the executive branch implement it.
But, as we noted in prior posts, the law allowed for the president to waive the requirement every six months on account of national security considerations. So Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all did just that—invoking the waiver and failing to abide by the law (as we showed, they each assumed that the embassy move would compromise Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or cause anti-U.S. protests to break out across the Middle East).
President Trump repeatedly vowed to move the embassy, just like his predecessors did. The only difference is that Trump “had the courage” to make good on his promise.
Bottom line: Every sovereign state has the right to determine where to locate its capital city and the U.S. has always placed its embassies in those locations—except when it came to Israel. Basically, in moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the U.S. is “fixing a historical diplomatic anomaly.”
Anticipated Palestinian Violence to the U.S. Embassy Move
These protests, which are expected to be much more aggressive than the demonstrations over the past few weeks at the Gaza border, are clearly being set as a response to the embassy move. That’s because they’re being called to coincide with the official ceremony today, and not for “Nakba Day” the following day on May 15, during which Palestinians and their supporters annually commemorate their perceived displacement and mourn the ‘catastrophe of Israel’s creation’.
Over 100,000 Palestinians are expected to take part in the “March of Return” protests today. Dozens or even hundreds may try to breach the border fence and attack nearby Israeli communities.
At the time of this writing, at least one of the communities only 0.6 miles from the border (Kibbutz Nahal Oz) is reportedly considering evacuating residents ahead of the rioting as a safety precaution.
We’ve been covering the past six weeks of the Palestinian “March of Return” protests in numerous posts, highlighting the fact that they aren’t ‘peaceful’ but are being used by the Hamas terror organization to conduct militant operations under civilian cover as a way to deflect a frustrated and angry public from its own abysmal failures.
Anticipated violent responses to the embassy move have been the key reasons that Trump’s predecessors have reneged on their own campaign promises to relocate it. For a while we thought that Trump too might cave into these threats, and fail to live up to his own campaign pledges, Has Trump gone soft on Jerusalem embassy move after threats of violence?. But as we speculated, if any President would be the one to stand up to these threats it would be Trump.
Bottom line: In the Arab world, the much-anticipated anti-U.S. violence to Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy never did materialize (as we rightly predicted). But tomorrow’s violence, if it happens, will be instigated and incited by Hamas, which will be responsible for the consequences. Trump made the right move not to hold U.S. foreign policy, the will of the American people, or the rights of an ally hostage to these terrorists.
— Archive:Mayor Nir Barkat (@ArchiveNir) May 13, 2018
You don’t have to agree with everything President Trump says or does to support and to be “deeply grateful” about his decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
You can watch the official ceremony live today at 4:00 pm Jerusalem time.
.@StateDept is proud to announce that @usembassyjlm will be dedicated on May 14. @USAmbIsrael Friedman will preside over the dedication ceremony & Deputy Secretary Sullivan will lead the Presidential Delegation to the historic opening. https://t.co/sZbY54wpqB #USEmbassyJerusalem pic.twitter.com/CFO9iXUOxn
— Department of State (@StateDept) May 12, 2018
Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElmanDONATE
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