By: Matthew Pipkin, Columnist
At the time this article reaches the public, we would have already witnessed a truly historic event. The United States will finally have opened up its embassy in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem, on the 70th anniversary that celebrates Israel’s Declaration of Independence. It only seems right that the Jewish state will be able to celebrate the anniversary of its independence with its most loyal ally by its side, as we open our embassy in Jerusalem. This symbolic gesture made by the United States, alongside with the President’s decision to officially recognize the capital of Israel to be Jerusalem, is one of the greatest accomplishments so far for the Trump administration. It gives further legitimacy to a nation of people most worthy of a place to call their own.
Contrary to popular belief, this was not a unilateral move made by Trump. In 1995, Congress passed the “Jerusalem Embassy Act:” officially recognizing Jerusalem as the inherent capital of Israel, as well as requiring the United States’ State Department to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As far as today’s standards are concerned, this was largely a bipartisan bill, with support for the bill coming from both Republicans and Democrats. The bill passed with only 5 nays in the Senate, and 37 in the House of Representatives. Not wanting to enforce the public law, Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all signed waivers delaying the law from taking effect. Both Bush and Obama even campaigned on the move of the embassy and recognition of the city as the capital of Israel but failed to do so in their terms of office.
Much of the domestic and international criticisms say that this has set back the peace discussions between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and further jeopardizes war in the volatile region. By moving our embassy and giving recognition to capital, many see that the United States is in fact not supporting a two-state solution, and seeking to further delegitimize the Palestinians. I would strongly disagree, as it has never been considered negotiable that the capital of Israel was Jerusalem. To achieve its goals of being a truly legitimate Jewish-state, it needed to declare that the capital of their new nation-state to be the same as the old capital of their people.
This does not mean that the Palestinians can’t have Jerusalem as their capital as well. As a supporter of the two-state solution myself, I only see the idea working if the Israelis and the Palestinians can agree to share the holy city as their respective capitals. In time, it will take cooperation and patience to truly achieve peace in the region. In order for productive peace talks to proceed, both sides need to be honest with one another. To pretend that the capital of Israel is not Jerusalem is contradictory to the facts.