Background: United States Formal Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

December 8, 2017

On Wednesday, December 6, President Trump announced that the United States will formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.   The action implements the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, in which a bi-partisan Congress required the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999.

In the intervening years, each President has exercised the power in the legislation to delay the move should the President determine that “such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.” After signing such a waiver in June, President Trump has decided to move forward with implementation of the Act, concluding that it no longer makes sense to defer moving the embassy and that this action recognizes the reality that parts of Jerusalem have been Israel’s capital for the last 70 years, with most of the nation’s government based there.

The announcement by President Trump endorses the long held belief in the Jewish community that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and reflects bi-partisan Congressional support for this fact. Please see Jewish Federations of North America(JFNA) statement here and this statement from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, (JCPA) the umbrella organization for community relations councils here.  The Jewish community has consistently rejected attempts by some in the international community to sever the historic link the Jewish people have to the city.

Today’s announcement, like virtually everything else related to the political situation in the Middle East, is controversial.  Some believe that the city’s status should be decided as part of a comprehensive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.  These people have a concern that this announcement will hurt the administration’s ability to serve as an honest broker between the parties and, most troubling, will destabilize the region, cause violence and loss of life, and further divide Israelis and Palestinians.

JCRC, along with most Jewish and non-Jewish organizations continue to pray for calm, moderation and tolerance and the peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict.   The president’s call for a two state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians live side by side with secure and recognized borders, and his reassurances that all final status issues will be left to the Israelis and Palestinians also reflects long standing policy of the United States, Israel and the Jewish community.   We continue to advocate for programs that support the efforts of Israeli and Palestinian civil society leaders to build an infrastructure of peace through people-to-people initiatives; such efforts will create the bonds of trust that can help lead to true long-term peace. Most importantly, we support Israel’s continuing commitment to ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims in the holy city of Jerusalem.

To provide you with more background on this issue please see the attached.

  1. Dr. Robert Satloff: JFED Talk: The U.S. Embassy in Israel
  2. Move the Embassy to Jerusalem and Promote Peace, Ambassador Dan Shapiro WSJ.
  3. Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in policy shift that could spark unrest, Washington Post Dec. 5
  4. Why the Wording of Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement Matters, David Makovsky and Dennis Ross Dec.5

As always, please feel free to contact us with questions and comments.  Please note that this information is provided solely as background and does not constitute a formal statement from the JCRC or the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.