5 Things You Need to Know About Trump's Jerusalem Decision
Last week, President Trump announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would soon relocate the country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City. This news made headlines around the world, both for its reversal of America’s longstanding foreign policy and its ability to reshape the region’s geopolitics.
As this story continues to unfold in the coming weeks, here are the five things you need to know about President Trump’s announcement and the world’s reaction:
1. Though Israel’s declared capital is Jerusalem, the international community has long refused to recognize this designation.
When the modern state of Israel was being formed in 1947, the United Nations wanted to declare Jerusalem an international zone, given its religious importance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims from around the world. Israel officially declared Jerusalem as its capital, but the city remained divided until the 1967 Six-Day War, when it annexed the eastern part of the city. This move was considered illegal under international law. Accordingly, countries from Argentina to Zambia located their embassies in and around Tel Aviv to avoid conflict.
2. For decades, U.S. presidents have declared their intention to move the American embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all made campaign promises to relocate the embassy, and Congress even took steps to make this happen. In 1995, a bipartisan majority in the House and Senate passed the “Jerusalem Embassy Act,” which recognized the city as Israel’s capital and promised to relocate the embassy there by May 31, 1999. But these presidents all stopped short of taking the final step to relocate the compound, fearing it would undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
3. Trump’s decision has no historic precedent.
Prior to President Trump’s announcement, Jerusalem was the only capital city in the world not recognized by the U.S. And the country’s embassy in Israel was the only one of America’s diplomatic missions not located in a capital city.
4. The move won’t happen overnight.
In his initial remarks announcing the move, President Trump said he would begin the process of “hiring architects, engineers, and planners” to build the new embassy immediately. However, according to U.S. officials, the relocation process will take at least three to four years to complete. And it remains unclear where in the city the new embassy will be built. While President Reagan set aside land in Jerusalem at the end of his term for this purpose, the plot does not meet safety standards for embassies enacted after the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
5. So far, few other countries have followed America’s lead.
This week, European Union member states announced they would keep the “international consensus” on Jerusalem, although Czech Republic President Milos Zeman said his country would now recognize the western part of the Holy City as Israel’s capital.
No Labels is an organization of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to bring American leaders together to solve problems.