Twenty-three years is a long time to wait for a promise to materialize. Yet, after more than two decades, the United States is at last following through on an aging pledge.
On May 14 — 70 years to the day after President Harry Truman recognized the nascent State of Israel — the U.S. is expected to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move will be the tangible enactment of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was passed by Congress and became law in 1995 yet for decades remained unfulfilled.
The Act recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and provided that “the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.” But because the Act also allowed the president to repeatedly implement six-month waivers of the move, the promise never came to fruition as administration after administration chose delay over action.
Last year, President Donald Trump put action behind the decades-old law and began the process of moving our embassy to Israel’s capital.
The announcement stirred international reactions — ranging from praise and celebration to fear and anger. Yet, the world’s response threatens to obscure the real story: What’s remarkable isn’t that our embassy will make its new home in Jerusalem. Rather, what’s remarkable is that some find this noteworthy at all.
After all, every sovereign nation in the world enjoys the right to determine its own capital. When the United States named Washington, D.C., its capital in 1790, we sought permission from neither friend nor foe. No one questions Paris as the capital of France. And when Japan’s capital shifted from Kyoto to Tokyo in the 19th century, it was hardly a matter of international controversy.
Why should Israel be any different?
Unfortunately, many believe Israel should be treated differently. Far too many nations reject the notion that Israel’s designated capital merits recognition as such. They hold the preposterous belief that Israel — and Israel alone among nations — requires international permission to conduct its own affairs, act in its own best interests, and designate its own capital.
Such is the sentiment behind efforts to inflict economic harm on Israel through local, state, and national boycott movements. Such is the sentiment behind the rampant anti-Israeli hostility so openly — and so often — on display at the United Nations. Such, ultimately, is the sentiment behind terrorist nations like Iran, which reject not simply Israel’s right to choose its own capital, but Israel’s very right to exist as a nation.
And such is the sentiment that led 128 nations — including many traditional U.S. allies — to vote in favor of a UN resolution condemning Trump’s decision to move our embassy.
Thankfully, just as the United States did not seek international permission before selecting our capital 228 years ago, we are not seeking international approval to respect the sovereign status of our strongest ally in the Middle East and relocate our embassy to Israel’s capital: Jerusalem.
Nor should we seek permission to continue to stand by our friend and ally as hostility — both military and economic — threatens Israel.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was not a declaration of Israel’s capital but simply a recognition of it. As the Act notes, “Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel…. The Unites States maintains its embassy in the functioning capital of every country except in the case of our democratic friend and strategic ally, the State of Israel.”
Moving our embassy to Jerusalem is the right move. And while it’s long overdue, it’s also fitting that it comes on the heels of Yom Ha’Atzmaut — Israel’s Independence Day.
As we anticipate May 14, may we join with our Israeli friends in celebrating this move. May we inspire other nations to give Israel the respect her status as a sovereign nation deserves. And may we continue to stand firmly alongside Israel as she has stood alongside us.