Trump performs a mitzvah by moving embassy to Jerusalem

Trump performs a mitzvah by moving embassy to Jerusalem
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A “mitzvah” is a Hebrew word, which refers to an act done by a person who performs a good deed. President Trump performed a good deed when he finally implemented what has been the policy of the United States since 1995, by acknowledging once and for all that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the U.S. embassy will eventually be moved there.

In 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Thereafter, President Clinton chose not to sign the bill into law. He instead let it become law by default after a 10-day waiting period to show his disapproval. The act, which became a law with consequence instead of one honored in the breach, sets forth the following.

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“Each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital. Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel. The city of Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s President, Parliament, and Supreme Court, and the site of numerous government ministries and social and cultural institutions.

“The city of Jerusalem is the spiritual center of Judaism, and is also considered a holy city by the members of other religious faiths. From 1948 to 1967, Jerusalem was a divided city and Israeli citizens of all faiths as well as Jewish citizens of all states were denied access to holy sites in the area controlled by Jordan.

“In 1967, the city of Jerusalem was reunited during the conflict known as the Six Day War. Since 1967, Jerusalem has been a united city administered by Israel, and persons of all religious faiths have been guaranteed full access to holy sites within the city. For decades Jerusalem has been administered as a unified city in which the rights of all faiths have been respected and protected.

“The United 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. The United States conducts official meetings and other business in the city of Jerusalem in de facto recognition of its status as the capital of Israel.”

President Trump has now declared that America not only recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but he also sets in motion a plan of action for it to become reality. He is directing that a suitable site be chosen, that designs be drafted, and that assessments be made with regard to security, construction, moving personnel, and staffing.

While the U.S. Embassy will not be moved overnight, and it will take years to accomplish, it will be done. President Trump did not make his decision without extensive interagency input and counsel. In addition, he sought the advice and input from Israel, as well as nations in the region and U.S. allies around the world.

For decades, America allowed itself to become a wedge in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by not acting decisively in moving our embassy pursuant to U.S. law. This indecision allowed for the U.S. Embassy to become a negotiation sticking point with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

While some of America’s allies may not be in favor of President Trump’s actions, it doesn’t change the fact that his decision is in the best interests of the United States and Israel, our most valued ally in the Middle East. Furthermore, it will serve to help Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects because it takes a sticking point off the table.

The bottom line is that America does not need permission to enact U.S. law. We are not bound by any “international agreements” or dictate with regard to where our U.S. Embassy in any country will be located. President Trump’s actions do not change the fact that America seeks a two-state solution with defined and defensible borders with regard to an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and that we want what is in the best interests of the parties with regard to the administration of the city of Jerusalem and its holy sites.

The parties to the peace process must come to an agreement that is honored in its performance instead of honored in the breach. A peace agreement is only as good as it is for parties bound by it. America for too long as been playing both sides against the middle when it comes to the peace process. We have not been fair dealers. We stand with Israel first and foremost. While we can and should be helpful to the peace process, we cannot pretend to be without allegiance and bias.

President Trump’s principled leadership will make the peace process more likely to be successful. Our friends have been emboldened and our adversaries have been put on notice as to what America does and does not stand for. Criticism by some friends and foes should give rise to acceptance and opportunity for them to move their embassies to Jerusalem as well. My advice to the Israelis and the Palestinians is “carpe diem.” Use this decision to restart the peace process in good faith.

Bradley A. Blakeman is a political consultant who served as a member of President George W. Bush’s senior White House staff from 2001 to 2004. He was a presidential appointee to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.