President Donald Trump declared on Wednesday “that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” in a landmark speech at the White House. He noted that in 1995 the Congress, by “an overwhelming bipartisan majority,” adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the federal government to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, and that the Senate had, just six months ago, “unanimously” reaffirmed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this is a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace,” Trump continued. “It was 70 years ago that the United States under President Truman recognized the state of Israel.”
Calling it “folly” to continue a policy of signing waivers and refusing to move the embassy that failed to achieve its objective of advancing “the cause of peace,” Trump said, “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” The president asserted that is a “recognition of reality” and “it is also the right thing to do.”
Trump said he would now instruct the State Department to make the necessary preparations for building an embassy in Jerusalem. While he did not give a timeline for its completion, Trump said that the embassy would be a “magnificent tribute to peace.”
Since its founding, the president said, Jerusalem has been the seat of Israel’s government, where it’s Knesset convenes and where its Supreme Court meets. It is also where its political leaders live and where foreign officials meet Israeli officials.
Trump hailed Jerusalem as not only the “heart” of three great religions, but also as the “heart of one of the world’s most successful democracies” where “Jews, Muslims and Christians and people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience and according to their beliefs.”
Specifically he said, “Jerusalem is today and must remain a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the stations of the cross, and where Muslims worship at Al Aqsa Mosque.”
The president also made clear that his decision on Jerusalem would in no way detract from his efforts “to facilitate a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”
“We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians,” Trump said. “We are not taking a position of any final status issues including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
He added that the United States supports “a two-state solution if agree to by both sides.”
While Trump acknowledged that there could be disagreements how best to proceed in achieving peace, he expressed confidence that “we will arrive at a peace and a place far greater in understanding and cooperation.” He called for calm, moderation and “the voices of tolerance” to “prevail over the purveyors of hate.”
Trump also said that Vice President Mike Pence would travel to the Middle East “in the coming days” to work with America’s allies to “defeat radicalism.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump’s declaration and said, “The President’s decision is an important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, however, said that Trump’s speech, ““is a declaration of withdrawal from the role [the United States] has played in the peace process.”
Under efforts by then Secretary of State John Kerry to achieve a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in 2014, it was Abbas who rejected all major compromises suggested by the Americans.
[Photo: NBC News / YouTube ]