The holy city of Jerusalem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘You ought to let the Jews have Jerusalem; it was they who made it famous,” Winston Churchill is said to have told a British diplomat in 1955.
The United States told Israeli and Arab leaders Tuesday that it would formally recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital. This after the US administration missed its deadline the previous day to delay the transfer of its embassy from Tel Aviv, despite the general expectation that President Donald Trump would sign the waiver, as he and his predecessors have for over two decades.
While some experts, including former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, doubted that this meant the waiver won’t eventually be invoked, it became apparent yesterday that the move (or lack thereof) reflected a deeper sense that the president indeed has something in store for us.
Israelis are seeking this simple act of recognition at a time when their country’s very future – not to mention its age-old ties to Jerusalem – is continually cast in doubt by the region’s tyrants.
With the extension of US recognition, it will be easier for the administration to relocate its most senior representative to Jerusalem, and finally rectify a historical wrong. And it is no secret that once the US acknowledges what most Jews across the globe believe, many of Israel’s natural allies – and perhaps some of the non-conventional ones recently acquired – are expected to follow suit.
Israelis have known no other capital. Although Jerusalemites have borne the brunt of terrorist attacks over time, present day included, no other city has served as the country’s political heart. While the Declaration of Independence was signed in Tel Aviv and for a brief period our institutions were located there, this was born of necessity; while Jerusalem was under siege by the rejectionist Arab armies, our country’s provisional government continued its state building from the future commercial metropolis.
The unwavering significance of Jerusalem to the Jews dates back 3,000 years. Soon after independence, all branches of the Israeli government – legislative, executive and judicial – were established in Jerusalem permanently. Here you will find the President’s Residence, the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s Office, ministries and Knesset, as well as the tombs of Israel’s founding fathers, including the late Shimon Peres.
President Trump must not be deterred by threats of violence on the part of those who resort to them routinely. Consider that four Israelis were stabbed last April at the Tel Aviv Promenade by a Palestinian who, ironically, was in Israel as part of a coexistence workshop. His murderous act was certainly not instigated by developments in Jerusalem. Nor was the killing of American student Taylor Force near the same location last year. Terrorism is reflective of a severely deformed values system and denying Israel’s right to choose its own capital for fear of more violence merely rewards and encourages such attacks.
There are few issues on which most Israeli political parties in Israel agree, but Jerusalem is one. MKs from Labor to Bayit Yehudi have made clear their desire to see the capital city finally accorded international recognition. Support for moving the embassy crosses party lines in the US too: a decision by President Trump to recognize Israel’s capital will draw support from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Trump must not submit to threats of violence or to Palestinian intransigence. The Palestinian Authority does not have veto rights over Israel’s relations with America or with any other country, nor can it prevent the remedy of this historical wrong.
A declaration on Jerusalem is not the be-all and end-all of the peace process. The door to negotiation is still wide open. Nor should proponents of a divided city get their knickers in a twist. Such a declaration merely anchors the conversation in a new sphere where parties can have a discussion based on reality. Afterwards, the parties will continue to explore alternatives for the future – east, west and all the rest.
Talia Dekel is the press associate at The Israel Project, an organization dedicated to informing the media and public conversation about Israel and the Middle East. She holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Tel Aviv University.