In an interview in today’s Frontlines, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said he set a goal to double the number of countries with embassies in Jerusalem in 2023. Four states have already moved their embassies to the capital, and Papua New Guinea promised to do so this year, which means there are three left to meet Cohen’s target.
A European Union member state plans to break with the rest of the bloc in the coming months to open an embassy in Jerusalem, he said. Of EU states, Czechia, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia have diplomatic offices in the capital that could easily be converted into embassies. There are persistent reports that Hungary will be the one to make the move, although its ambassador has neither confirmed nor denied it.
There are 10 other countries with diplomatic offices in Jerusalem, and several countries – most of which are in Africa, including Malawi, Togo and Uganda – have made promises to move their embassies to Jerusalem in the years since the US announced in 2017 that it intended to move its embassy to the capital.
As part of this effort, the Foreign Ministry held a new ceremony for Jerusalem Day, which celebrates the reunification of the eternal capital of the Jewish people. The flags of the United States, Guatemala, Honduras and Kosovo were raised to honor them for choosing to move their embassies to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem “is the beating heart of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years… I call on the rest of the countries of the world to open their embassies in Jerusalem,” Cohen said.
He’s right. Not only should all embassies in Israel move to Jerusalem, but the countries whose primary missions remain in Tel Aviv – or Ramat Gan or Herzliya, in some cases – should be reminded of the absurdity of their location.
Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for millennia, a site of pilgrimage and locus of prayer for Jews from around the world, even during 2,000 years of exile. Even if one does not accept religious arguments, there is overwhelming archaeology evidence of thousands of years of Jewish life in the city.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas absurdly claimed at the UN Nakba Day event this week that there is no proof of a Jewish connection to the Old City of Jerusalem. Two days later, the Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a Second Temple-era receipt on the Pilgrimage Road in Jerusalem, connecting the City of David to the Temple Mount 2,000 years ago – just one more of many pieces of evidence that Jews have a historic claim to the city.
Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, is the capital of Israel
The modern State of Israel made its capital very clear from its inception, moving the Constituent Assembly, later renamed the Knesset, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1949. Since then, Jerusalem has been the seat of government, housing the Supreme Court, Knesset, President’s Residence, Prime Minister’s Office and most other government ministries.
Ambassadors of all countries make their way to Jerusalem to present their credentials to the president and to meet with diplomats in the Foreign Ministry. Yet they pretend Tel Aviv is the capital.
They may argue that Jerusalem is a city in dispute and that they don’t want to move embassies there until the border between Israel and the Palestinians is finalized. Yet at the same time, they make a distinction between the eastern and western parts of the city, with the east being predominantly Arab. Nine countries have consulates general in Jerusalem, which – despite being located in a theoretical “corpus separatum,” ostensibly not part of any country – functionally serve a Palestinian population.
They don’t seem to see the contradiction between arguing that Israel’s capital cannot be Jerusalem until there is a final settlement with the Palestinians and treating the city as though it already contains the Palestinian capital. Somehow, in their thinking, Israel doesn’t currently deserve any part of the city.
Our friends around the world should come to terms with reality. No country has the right to tell another where its capital is. Israel’s capital is not Tel Aviv. It is and has always been Jerusalem, and we have the literal receipts to prove it.
All embassies should be in Jerusalem.