- - Monday, December 11, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Trump’s announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital changes everything, and nothing. On the one hand, it is simply a recognition of reality and U.S. law. More than two decades ago Congress enacted a law requiring the State Department to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, the Israeli commercial capital, to Jerusalem.

The law had never been implemented. Each presidential administration has simply issued a waiver of congressional instruction every six months, delaying the move of the embassy. Indeed, President Trump has issued the waiver twice himself. But now he has now made it clear that U.S. policy is changing: Mr. Trump says he will do what several presidents before him only said they would do what Congress required. In so doing, Mr. Trump is fulfilling a major campaign promise. This was a bold and right redemption of a promise.

It’s first a reflection of reality, as the president noted in his remarks. Jerusalem is, as everyone can see, already the capital of Israel. The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, is there. So is the prime minister’s office. Pretending otherwise is to deny the world as it actually exists, a common fantasy in the Islamic world, but not a fantasy that the United States need any longer indulge.

Recognition now is further the will of the American people. Not only did Congress demand it those 22 years ago, but only six months ago, the Senate voted 99 to nothing — a vote so overwhelming as to be all but unheard of — to move the embassy.

It’s further a welcome renewal of American will in the Middle East. The Obama administration was notably hostile to Israel, fearful of upsetting the president’s friends in the Islamic world. Israel is America’s long-standing friend and loyal ally, and Mr. Obama shamed himself when he refused to order a veto of a shameful United Nations resolution that condemned Israel and its settlements. Mr. Trump has signaled that those days are over, that America once again will have the back of her friends. Critics may carp that the move will “destabilize” the Middle East, but that’s saying we should close the barn door now that all the horses are running through the neighborhood. The Middle East is a caldron of instability. Mr. Trump simply strengthens the status quo of a region riven by strife.

It’s also smart strategically, as it will put pressure on Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to return to peace negotiations. This can be a good thing. Mr. Abbas has refused to participate in negotiations for nearly 10 years. Mr. Trump has sent exactly the right signal to Mr. Abbas: the longer you delay acceding to reality, the more you lose. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to one day be the capital of their nation. That might one day come to pass, but only if the Palestinians demonstrate they actually want peace and are willing to give up their fantasy of killing all the Jews.

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