The Memo: Five takeaways from Trump's Jerusalem speech

The Memo: Five takeaways from Trump's Jerusalem speech

President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Biden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic MORE officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel Wednesday in a speech from the Diplomatic Room of the White House. 

Trump also instructed the State Department to set in motion the process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

The moves broke with decades of precedent. Here are five things to know about the historic development. 


Trump is at odds with the international community — again

Since word began to leak out that the administration was considering the policy shift, many other nations have registered their concerns. 

It is no surprise that the Palestinians and other players in the Arab world are vociferously opposed to the decision, but the level of criticism from traditional U.S. allies in Western Europe is conspicuous. 


A French government statement said President Emmanuel Macron had “expressed his concern” in an advance phone call with Trump. The German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, on Tuesday called the move “counterproductive.”  

Soon after Trump’s speech, British Prime Minister Theresa May — who had earlier emphasized that the British government’s policy on Jerusalem would remain unchanged — released a further statement stating bluntly, “We disagree with the U.S. decision.”  

But there was to be no softening of Trump’s line.  

“Through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have declined to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In fact, we have declined to acknowledge any Israeli capital at all,” he said.  


“But today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”  

For good or bad, Trump is once again going it alone.

Domestically, Trump framed the announcement as evidence of strength 

The question of why the president would choose to make this move now has puzzled even sympathetic observers. 

On Wednesday, Trump characterized the decision as one that simply delivered on a promise — something, he implied, that previous presidents had “lacked courage” to do. 


“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering,” he said.

For Trump, the decision seems to be in part about burnishing his reputation, at least among his supporters, as a president who acts while other politicians merely talk.

Critics are scathing of that idea — they see recklessness and self-aggrandizement where Trump loyalists see guts — but it clearly has an appeal to some. 

Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative Family Research Council, praised Trump’s move as “a major milestone in America’s historic relationship with Israel."

Perkins's statement also called Trump “bold and courageous.” 


Trump did not call Jerusalem “undivided” or “indivisible” 

There was some speculation that Trump might use the term “undivided” to describe Jerusalem. He had reportedly been encouraged to do so by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPoll: Majority of voters say more police are needed amid rise in crime America's middle class is getting hooked on government cash — and Democrats aren't done yet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (D-N.Y.), among others.

The phrase would have deepened the controversy, since a central issue in the city is the ultimate fate of east Jerusalem, a largely Palestinian sector that was seized by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967. The Palestinians have long held that east Jerusalem should be the capital of a future independent state. 

Still, Trump’s decision not to use the loaded term seems unlikely to ease anger in the Arab world, which is outraged about the broader move toward the recognition of Israeli sovereignty.

Trump won praise from Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump is far warmer than it was with President Obama. That was underlined on Wednesday, when Netanyahu tweeted a video thanking Trump. 

“We are profoundly grateful for the president, for his courageous and just decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “This decision reflects the president’s commitment to an ancient but enduring truth.”

Netanyahu called on other nations to follow the United States’ example.

The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, also lauded Trump’s decision as “the right thing” during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday. 

The world waits for what comes next

The big question is whether violence will erupt in the wake of Trump’s announcement. 

Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the United States, has called for a display of “rage,” beginning on Friday. The Islamist group has run the Gaza Strip since winning elections in 2006. 

The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem also issued a security warning to American citizens and government workers in the region on Tuesday, and the U.S. Embassy in Jordan followed suit Wednesday.

Heightening the stakes further, some states in the Middle East are widely considered to be happy to stoke anti-American or anti-Israeli sentiment as a pressure valve for their own restive populations.

Widespread strife would be dangerous in such a volatile region and would also amplify criticism in the U.S. of Trump's move. A more muted reaction could suggest that Trump critics have exaggerated the negative impact of the decision.

A further question mark looms over the political fate of Palestinian leaders, notably Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.  

Abbas’s party, Fatah, is more moderate than Hamas. If Palestinian popular anger at Trump and the U.S. reaches an intense pitch, Abbas could be in real trouble. That would have the potential to complicate any future push for peace.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.