President Trump did a truly provocative thing Wednesday: He declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel.
Now let me remind you of two things: Congress first recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in 1995 with the Jerusalem Recognition Act, a bill so “controversial” that it was reaffirmed just six months ago by a unanimous vote in the Senate. And as is the custom in Washington, dire predictions are being made about what happens next.
I do not recall any dire predictions when Congress first passed the bill or when the Senate reauthorized it.
Now that President Trump is doing it, the doomsayers are coming out in full force.
â€“ “This will end the peace process!” There currently is no peace process. Every single Israeli-Palestinian peace process before now has been an abject failure.
â€“ “Jerusalem must be part of final status negotiations!” Israel’s control of West Jerusalem has never been disputed.
â€“ “The U.S. will no longer be the honest broker for peace!” The U.S. will always be the only broker for peace in the region.
â€“ “The Palestinian Authority rejects terrorism!” Hamas is already promising violence in light of the Jerusalem decision.
In upholding a campaign promise, Mr. Trump’s action is simultaneously both symbolic and meaningful.
While the U.S. Embassy will not yet be moved, as security, housing, and infrastructure issues must first be addressed, this step is a necessary precursor. In fact, with this proclamation Mr. Trump directed the State Department to develop a plan to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem has been the real capital of Israel for over 70 years. It is where the Knesset meets. It is where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lives, works and sleeps. It is the capital.
The White House agrees that “specific boundaries of sovereignty in Jerusalem” are “highly sensitive” and “subject to final-status negotiations.” Indeed, they are. Importantly, the White House reaffirmed its support for a two-state solution if both sides can agree.
Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan said the White House move was “long overdue.”
“Jerusalem has been, and always will be, the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “The city’s status as the religious epicenter of Judaism is an historical fact â€“ not a matter of debate. Today’s announcement is a recognition of reality that in no way inhibits efforts to reach a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Mr. Netanyahu also expressed his profound gratitude to Mr. Trump for his courageous decision, saying, “This is a historic day. Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for nearly 70 years. Jerusalem has been the focus of our hopes, our dreams, our prayers for three millennia.”
We should acknowledge there are risks to this announcement.
Extremists may attack Western interests or American embassies in the region. It is possible that lives may be lost. I am sure this possibility weighed on Mr. Trump and his team.
But it is never the wrong time to do the right thing.
President Trump is sending an unmistakable message of moral clarity to the region. The war on Israel is over. The U.S. sides with Israel on its right to exist. Pretending Jerusalem is not the recognized capital is absurd and insulting.
Achieving Middle East peace is a vexing problem with no clear or easy solution.
If the Palestinians turn to terrorism after this announcement, then they were never going to be trustworthy partners for peace in the first place.
Matt Mackowiak is the president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. His national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” may be found on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and on the web at MackOnPolitics.com.
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