Welcome to Biggs' Freedom Fridays
December 7, 2018 – Standing with Our Strongest Ally
Yesterday, I introduced a resolution cosponsored by dozens of my House colleagues commemorating the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which he announced on December 6, 2017.
What is the history of Jerusalem’s status?
From the moment the modern State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, the founders of the country had no doubt that they wanted Jerusalem to serve as their capital. However, Jerusalem was divided by war at the time, and the United Nations considered it an international city. As a result, the Truman administration decided in 1950 to open its Israel embassy in Tel Aviv, and this was the status quo for nearly 70 years, even though the situation on the ground changed dramatically over those decades: at the end of the Six-Day War in 1967, all of Jerusalem was secured by the Israelis, who declared it an open city in which members of all faiths—Jews, Christians, and Muslims—would be free to practice.
The path to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
By the 1990s, there was overwhelming public support for U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In 1995, Congress passed legislation to achieve this result, as well as the subsequent relocation of the embassy. However, all recent presidents before Trump—Clinton, Bush, and Obama—postponed implementation of this law for national security reasons, which is why it came as such a surprise when the current president moved forward with recognition last December. The new U.S. embassy opened six months later, on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence.
Why does all this matter?
Effective foreign policy begins with an acknowledgement of reality and a proper respect for allies. Israel is one of our country’s strongest allies, and the people of that nation regard Jerusalem as their capital: after all, in addition to being the spiritual home of the nation, it is the city in which all of Israel’s major governing institutions are located. Why should we disregard the sovereignty claims of a critical strategic partner when we would never dispute the designations of our other allies’ capitals?
Even more importantly, U.S. recognition of Israel will likely assist the peace process. Like all his recent predecessors, Trump is committed to working with both the Israelis and the Palestinians to achieve a lasting peace in the region, and at least now all sides will be burdened by fewer illusions.