President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel Wednesday, making good on a promise that former President Barack Obama and his administration made, but failed to deliver throughout the course of his eight years in The White House.
The president announced his decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that broke away from over 20-years of indecision from previous U.S. presidents.
“With today’s action, I reaffirm my administration’s long-standing commitment to a future of peace and security for the region. There will, of course, be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement,” Trump said Wednesday. “But we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a peace and a place far greater in understanding and cooperation.”
Congress passed a law in 1995 that ordered the U.S. embassy to be located in Jerusalem, but every U.S. president since the mandate became law has decided to delay it, arguing a relocation must come through negotiations, not a decree.
Obama announced as a candidate for president in 2008 at the American Israel Pubic Affairs Committee policy conference that any agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian people must recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable,” Obama said. “The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and that allows them to prosper. Any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state with secure, recognized, defensible borders. And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”
Obama’s commitment to making Jerusalem the capital of Israel is interesting, given his administration’s decision in 2016 to abstain from voting for a United Nations resolution that declared Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal. The Obama administration could have vetoed the resolution if it voted, but decided to abstain from voting.
The former president’s ambassador to the U.N. at the time, Samantha Power, said the administration made the right move because the administration could not support settlements and a two-state solution simultaneously.
“The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes,” Isreali Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told reporters after the U.S. decided to abstain from voting.
Palestinians were elated with the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from vetoing the resolution.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas office called the 2016 U.S. abstention a “big blow for the Israeli political policy, a condemnation for settlements and consensus by the international community and a support for the two-state solution.”
For his part, Kerry vehemently defended the Obama administration’s decision, calling Netanyahu’s government the “most right-wing in Israel’s history.”
“If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both, and it won’t ever really be at peace,” Kerry said.
“President Obama and I know that the incoming Administration has signaled that they will take a different path, and even suggested breaking from long-standing U.S. policies on settlements, Jerusalem — and possibly the two state solution,” Kerry said. “That is for them to decide. But we cannot – in good conscience –do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away.”
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