US Embassy in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
When US President Donald Trump announced the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, there was much controversy and disagreement.
Violent demonstrations were held in Israel and all over the world.
So why the outrage? Palestinians claimed the embassy announcement broke international law. According to Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour, Trump’s announcement “heightened tensions and risks complete destabilization... with far-reaching consequences.”
To understand Trump’s decision, we need to look at the Clinton administration.
In 1995, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, US Congress voted overwhelmingly to pass the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. The vote in the Senate was 93-5. The Jerusalem Embassy Act states that the US should declare Jerusalem Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.
The act also included a limitation that allowed presidents to sign a sixmonth waiver on moving the embassy, “to protect the national security interests of the United States.” This was done to prevent any damage to the peace process.
And every six months, US presidents have signed the waiver – until Trump decided it was in the best interests of the US not to. (In addition, the move is a practical one, as Israel’s parliament and prime minister are located in Jerusalem.) Back in 1980, the United Nations was concerned by the need to “protect and preserve the unique spiritual and religious dimensions” of Jerusalem, which Israel has done to this day. But from 1948 to 1967, Jordan denied access to the areas of Jerusalem it controlled.
Placing the US embassy in Jerusalem further emphasizes its value as a capital of peace for Jews, Christians, Muslims and anyone else who seeks it. Everyone is equal, everyone is free, and everyone is recognized.
And there is no international law that forbids a country to relocate its embassy.
Going back to 1995, Israel wasn’t the only one singled out. Under president Clinton, Israel and Palestine signed the Interim Agreement; setting up a self-governing Palestinian Authority which got the “West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Then Clinton went on trying to implement a peace process, yet to no avail. He tried to be a peacemaker but failed at negotiating a lasting peace and stalling conflict.
Even though Trump’s move seems controversial, it is important that in any peace process Jerusalem remain free for all. It takes into account the decades of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital that always allows religious freedom and cultural diversity.
America has been a long-standing, faithful ally of Israel. Trump’s decision only reinforces our strong relationship.
Israel and America stand firm on core values like the importance of life, freedom and democracy.
And it is a democracy that seeks to resolve conflicts through understanding and words, not through heated tension in which no one listens.
Jerusalem is a home for everyone, regardless of their religion or status in life. In fact, the name “Jerusalem,” in Hebrew “Yerushalayim,” means “city of peace,” and in Arabic, Jerusalem is “al-Quds,” or “the holy city.”
Even though all the conflict and misunderstanding, Jerusalem will always be close to the hearts of many people, as it has been for millennia.
Jerusalem has over 3,000 years of history. Today, it is the holy city where thousands of Jews, Christians, and Muslims all come to pray. They all stand united, praying for this world to be a better place. There are churches and mosques, Jewish temples and the Western Wall. Every human being that prays in Jerusalem is unique and special in their own way.
I’ve always admired Jerusalem. I visited Jerusalem last summer, and it is a city I will always love. It is a city I will always be privileged to pray in. And when all the hearts and minds in Jerusalem pray, it fills the air with hope for the world; the same beliefs that have existed for what seems an eternity. To imagine how many people have prayed in the city, struggled over millennia. To imagine the uncountable number of hearts that have been touched by this city is a miracle in itself. It is a city undivided and free to all who hold their faith there. With all religions coming there, it is a symbol of peace, not hatred or violence. It’s a miraculous place that always fascinates me.
The US recognized Israel’s independence in 1948, and Israel has been a vibrant democracy ever since.
Especially today, it is good to express our wish for peace and diversity in a land that has faced rough tension since its creation. And in the words of President Reuven Rivlin: “Jerusalem is not, and will never be, an obstacle to peace.”The author is a student at the University of CSU Channel Islands and grew up in Jerusalem and the US.