This weekend President Donald Trump departs on his first overseas trip, which will include visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican and Europe.
Trump’s Israel visit coincides with a very special day — the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty after 2000 years.
Many, including me, hope that President Trump will take this very special occasion to announce that he will fulfill his campaign promise and move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.
It was in the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War, 50 years ago in 1967, defeating the attacking armies of Israel’s three neighboring countries — Egypt, Jordan and Syria — that Israel captured East Jerusalem, held by Jordan, and united it with West Jerusalem, held by Israel.
The U.S. Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 stating, as a matter of U.S. policy, that Jerusalem should remain an undivided city, that it should be recognized as Israel’s capital city, and that the American embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem no later than 1999.
The act included a waiver for the president to not implement the law if he deems that the action creates a national security problem. All presidents since then, Clinton, Bush and Obama have exercised this waiver.
Now President Trump holds the cards. He promised during the campaign to move the embassy. Will he do it?
When asked about this on “Meet the Press,” Secretary of State Tillerson showed signs that the administration may be going wobbly on the president’s promise. He said that the embassy move would be considered “in the context of a peace initiative.”
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem delivered a strategy paper to President Trump, which includes my organization CURE as a signatory, urging him to move the embassy to Jerusalem. The paper quickly gets to the heart of the matter, saying that hesitance to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, because of “fear of Islamic backlash,” is not policy “based on principle, fairness and historical right, but it is based solely on weakness and fear.”
These Christian Zionists are right. If the United States wants to further peace in the Middle East, and elsewhere, the best start is to demonstrate clear, principled leadership, defined by our free principles and not by intimidation.
Israel has been under siege since its founding in 1948. Yet, under the constant shadow of war and terrorism, in just 69 years Israelis have built a modern, industrialized country, with per capita income on par with the industrialized countries of Europe. It is the only free and democratic country in the Middle East.
I wrote a column a number of years ago entitled “The Simple Path to Middle East Peace.” I quoted the late television personality Art Linkletter, who said, “Things turn out best for the people that make the best of the way things turn out.” I said then, and I say now, that this captures the difference between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Israelis built a modern thriving nation in the wake of a devastating Holocaust. In contrast, the Palestinians have allowed themselves to be immobilized by hatred and denial, insisting that their problems and suffering are because of others.
I have watched for years how this culture of victimhood has locked low income black Americans in our inner cities in a never-ending cycle of dependency and poverty.
Nothing defines the unique relationship between the United States and Israel more than the scripture from the Book of Leviticus in our Bible inscribed on the Liberty Bell — “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
With beautiful irony, this scripture is about the jubilee year, which occurs every 50 years.
Now President Trump arrives in Israel for the jubilee year of the reunification of Jerusalem. He should take this occasion to announce that the United States will, finally, recognize Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.