Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would confer no substantial benefit to Israel.
By Shalom Lipner / Politico
May 18, 2017
[President Trump] could authorize the move because he wants to keep his campaign promise, because America prides itself in doing the honorable thing or just because it makes sense. But he shouldn’t do it as a misplaced favor to the people of Israel. They can live without it. Especially now, in light of new allegations about Trump sharing confidential data with Russia, it’s clear that efforts to build Israeli confidence in his leadership can be invested more intelligently.
[Ed. note: There are 82 foreign embassies in Israel, none of them in Jerusalem.]
Presidents are used to receiving unsolicited advice. Here’s something for President Donald Trump to ponder as he packs his bags for Israel: Many Israelis really don’t care whether the United States moves its embassy to Jerusalem.
Latest reports now suggest that Trump has decided to forestall such a move for the forseeable future. His path to this destination, after indications that he would eschew the example of all his predecessors, has been tortuous.
Celebrating Israel’s 69th independence day at the White House, Vice President Mike Pence recently reprised administration rhetoric on the matter. “The president of the United States, as we speak,” he told applauding party-goers in the Indian Treaty Room, “is giving serious consideration into moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson struck a more tentative figure over the weekend, possibly foreshadowing Trump’s plans to indeed exercise his presidential waiver and leave the embassy where it stands. When Tillerson tried passing the buck, suggesting that Israel might view the move as “perhaps a distraction” to a peace initiative, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back that “the contrary” was in fact true. Adding to the confusion, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Tuesday, “Obviously, I believe that the capital should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem because if you look at all their government is in Jerusalem. So much of what goes on is in Jerusalem and I think we have to see that for what it is.”
To be sure, a rare consensus of Israeli Jews endorses Jerusalem as their nation’s capital. They feel strongly that all friends of Israel — first and foremost among them, the United States — should also confer this status on the original City upon a Hill. In their eyes, documents like last month’s UNESCO resolution, which branded Israel as an “occupying Power” in Jerusalem, are not only prejudicial and offensive, but they fly in the face of Israel’s bona fide legal and historical rights in the holy city.
If you engage Israelis in conversation, however, many of them express ambivalence about the embassy question. While they believe unabashedly that all foreign missions should be situated in Jerusalem, they largely reject any portrayal of this project as some form of “concession” to Israel. Few would be willing to proffer any substantial quid in return for what is regarded as little more than a symbolic quo.