A cross-section of Jerusalemites on Wednesday said they believe US President Donald Trump is serious about relocating the US Embassy to the capital.
But they cited Arab opposition and more imminent concerns – namely security, peace negotiations, housing and the ailing economy.
While residents acknowledged the symbolic importance of the gesture – and expressed gratitude for Trump’s decidedly pro-Israel stance following eight years of the Obama administration – none believe such a move will be forthcoming due to pronounced international resistance.
Meir Vainer, an Orthodox 32-year-old musician and 10th-generation Jerusalemite, said he did not doubt Trump’s intent, but noted the overwhelming opposition he will face from Arab countries, as well as from the Arabs who comprise over 30% of the capital’s population.
Donald Trump at AIPAC conference in March 2016: Will veto anti-Israel moves at UN, move US embassy to Jerusalem
“He’s going to try, but I’m not sure he’s going to have success because of what he’s up against,” said Vainer, near the iconic Mahaneh Yehuda market. “It is a good symbolic gesture, but we live here with a lot of Arabs, and it may make things worse if it comes here, so it’s not worth the trouble to me.”
Vainer added: “I’m more worried about things that affect me directly, like my job, security and everyday life.”
While manning the cash register of a nearby liquor store, Chai Chaim, 29, also said he believed Trump is sincere, yet noted strong Arab opposition that will make such a move difficult, and fraught with consequences.
“I think Trump is different than the other presidents who promised to move the embassy before they were elected, and I hope it happens, but it will not be easy because the Arab people will not like it,” he said.
“But Trump is different from Obama,” he continued. “He’s not afraid of anybody.”
Ruth Kitany, who owns a cosmetics shop at the Jaffa Road entrance to the market, said Trump likely will attempt to follow through on his pledge, but added that she did not want the embassy moved due to already pronounced volatility in the city.
“I think he wants to do it, but don’t believe it’s going to happen because it is so difficult and complicated,” said Kitany.
“Also, I really don’t want it to happen because the Palestinians will make problems here.”
As an Orthodox boy practiced his Torah portion for his upcoming bar mitzva in the rear of Ahron Maharizi’s hardware store, Maharizi, 36, said overwhelming international pressure will ultimately derail the relocation.
“I believe [Trump] wants to do it, but he will not because I think the Arab countries and the Palestinian government will put a lot of pressure on him not to do it,” he said. “It’s important symbolically, but for me personally, it’s not very important for the State of Israel and the reality here.”
Indeed, Maharizi added that he is more concerned about dealing with terrorism and the threat that Iran poses, as well as the ability to build Jewish housing in east Jerusalem.
“Hezbollah, Hamas and the Iranian government, which is the source of global terrorism, are on my mind much more than where the US Embassy is,” he explained.
Herzl Avoukrat, 38, who owns a mobile phone repair shop, said he has no doubt that Trump intends to move the embassy, but echoed the sentiment that it will not improve the quality of life for Israelis.
“I think he wants to do it and will do it, but it will not help our daily life,” he said.
“I’m more worried about peace and the economy, which is more important to everybody in Jerusalem than symbols.”
Citing 3,000 years of Jewish history and struggle in the capital, Sampson Cohen, 71, said he hopes the relocation will happen as a symbolic statement but noted more pressing concerns as well.
“It would be great symbolically for the Jewish people, but for me it’s not as important as security and support for Israel,” he said.
Meanwhile, asked if he is more optimistic now that Trump has replaced Obama, Cohen rolled his eyes.
“Are you kidding me?” he asked.