Trump is Acknowledging Reality, Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel
In 1949, the Jewish people declared Jerusalem the capital of their reborn nation. As Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, announced: “There has always been and always will be one capital only – Jerusalem the eternal. Thus it was 3,000 years ago and thus it will be, we believe, until the end of time.”
With US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December that the American government will now recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, we are finally acknowledging a reality that we have cowardly avoided for far too long. Or, as Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed before the Knesset in Jerusalem this week, “The United States has chosen fact over fiction.”
For 70 years, Israel’s government has been headquartered in west Jerusalem. Its legislature, its judiciary, and many of its government agencies and departments all conduct their daily business in Jerusalem, just as the US does in Washington.
Because of this, the United States regularly conducts diplomatic business with Israel in Jerusalem even though its embassy sits more than 65 kilometers away, in Tel Aviv.
When American presidents or members of Congress, like myself, travel to Israel to meet with its leaders, we go to Jerusalem.
Even our foreign service officers based in Tel Aviv frequently make the journey to Jerusalem to meet with their Israeli counterparts. Ignoring Jerusalem’s status as the capital of Israel simply created unnecessary logistical hurdles and demonstrated we could be cowed by threats of unrest.
Beyond the practical reasons, the act of seeing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel is a deeply meaningful and symbolic move that acknowledges the Jewish people’s spiritual and historic ties to the city that many in the region wish to deny. The holy city of Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, which from its beginning was heavily fought over and disputed.
Founded during the dawn of civilization, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, captured and recaptured 44 times, and ruled by many of history’s great empires, including the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and British.
Yet, despite its many conquerors, Jerusalem has always been the center of the Jewish world.
The Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem is clearly recorded in the Bible and evident in the physical foundations of the city. King David, the biblical and historic king of Israel, made Jerusalem his capital in 1,000 BCE. His son Solomon built the Holy Temple that was the center of the early Jewish faith on Mount Moriah in the Old City of Jerusalem.
After its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, it was rebuilt years later only to be destroyed again by the Romans in the year 70 CE.
Remnants of the ancient temple still remain at the Temple Mount with one of its outer walls, known as the Western Wall, serving as the holiest site in Judaism today.
When the Romans destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem, they expelled its Jewish inhabitants, forbidding them from settling in the rebuilt city. The following centuries saw Muslim and Christian armies battle for the city, each erecting their own shrines. We cannot ignore the significance Jerusalem also holds to Christians and Muslims, thus we would risk being no different than the terrorists who wish to see Israel wiped from the map. We support Israel and acknowledge Jerusalem as its capital because it reflects our democratic and inclusive values, and we see this reflected in how it has governed the city since it was reunited under the Jewish state in 1967. Since then, the city has flourished with all faiths being permitted to worship in peace – something that was long denied to Jews.
TRUMP’S ANNOUNCEMENT does not deny Arab ties to the city, but it does refute assertions that are far too common in the Arab world that the Jewish state and Jewish people have no claim to Jerusalem.
Just days before Pence arrived in the region this month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas argued the State of Israel was “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism.” This denial of reality by Palestinian leadership who Israel is expected to broker peace with reinforces why Trump’s Jerusalem recognition is necessary. Leadership often requires taking a stand against popular opinion to correct an injustice. Recognizing the true Israeli capital and Jewish connection to the city is one way of America reasserting its global leadership.
With the most powerful nation on the planet setting the course towards acknowledging Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, others will have an easier time doing the same.
Now, with this self-inflicted distraction out of the way, we can get back to the necessary business of brokering peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Ultimately, it is those two parties that must come to terms. This will include the future of the full city of Jerusalem, which the White House announcement wisely does not address. But thanks to President Trump’s bold leadership, we will no longer deny Israel’s self-determined right to have Jerusalem as the political, cultural, and spiritual center of the Jewish state.
And that’s just the way it is.