President Donald Trump took the first steps Tuesday towards moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, allowing the six-month waiver to the Jerusalem Embassy Act to expire, and contacting leaders in the Middle East to indicate his intentions.
Palestinian and Jordanian leaders warned President Trump not to make the move — which he promised he would do on the campaign trail — and leaders around the world also urged Trump to relent.
But as he has done several times already — from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Paris Climate Accords — the 45th president seems prepared to do what he feels is right for the United States, regardless of conventional wisdom.
More often than not, President Trump has exposed that conventional wisdom as essentially hollow. Likewise with moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Doing so would not prejudice peace talks in any way. The Palestinians pretend that all of Jerusalem — including the newer western part, which is almost entirely Jewish, and where the entire Israeli government is located — is up for negotiation. But that is a fiction — and the Palestinians surely know it.
Moreover, there is nothing about affirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital that would prevent Palestinians from setting up their own capital, hypothetically, in the city’s eastern suburbs, as a new Saudi peace proposal has envisioned. The holy sites in the Old City can be dealt with separately. What is at stake is simply Israeli sovereignty, which the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab and Muslim world will have to accept in any conceivable peace process.
The Palestinians are threatening violence. But as Ha’aretz reported Tuesday, quoting a Palestinian official, “[T]he Palestinian Authority is interested in carrying out marches of rage and protest, but there’s no intention to break the rules or lead to a frontal confrontation with Israel like the one that took place during the Second Intifada.”
That is not to say there will be no opposition to the move. But if anyone is prepared to stare down the international community, and the media, it is Donald Trump. Indeed, criticism of the move may make him more likely to do it.
If he does, Trump will be following in the footsteps of President Harry Truman, who defied the State Department and the global foreign policy establishment by recognizing Israel immediately after it had declared independence. To recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the U.S. embassy there, 70 years after the U.N. partition vote and 100 years after the Balfour Declaration, would be the ultimate affirmation of Israel’s founding vision.
More than that, Trump will be fulfilling the vision that drove Jews to re-establish their ancient republic. Jerusalem is at the heart of the Jewish faith and the core of Israeli sovereignty. Jews face Jerusalem when we pray, wherever we are in the world. Jerusalem is mentioned in every Jewish prayer; it is even remembered in the grace over meals. If the U.S. establishes its embassy in Jerusalem, that will signal that Israel’s sovereignty in the city is permanent.
Other countries will eventually follow the U.S. lead and relocate their embassies, too. Over time, that will actually help the peace process. Palestinians have refused to make concessions because they have always believed that Israel will somehow disappear, or be destroyed by another regional power (Nasser’s Egypt, Saddam’s Iraq, or Khomeini’s Iran, to name a few). Faced with the reality of Israel’s permanence, they will eventually have to make compromises.
That will benefit Americans, not only by advancing the peace process, but also by sending a strong signal to our enemies in Iran and elsewhere that we will not be intimidated into abandoning our commitments to our allies. Equally, Trump will set an example for the West, whose leaders have capitulated to threats of terror for far too long.
In moving the embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump will secure his place in history. It is also the right thing to do.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.