There is now a billboard on the streets of Jerusalem reading: “God Bless Trump, From JerUSAlem to Washington DC.”
That sign took on great significance on Wednesday because — as he promised he would — President Donald Trump has taken the bold step of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, beginning the process of moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Keeping this campaign pledge is important, because Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East.
Along with assurances that he would build a wall and repeal and replace Obamacare, then-candidate Donald Trump campaigned on the promise to re-locate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Now, nearing the end of his first year in office, President Trump is following through with his commitment. With this announcement, he made it clear that this is the right time and the right step to take in his hopes to achieve peace in the Middle East.
The President’s action is already prompting condemnation from some, which begs the question: Why condemn Trump for carrying out a campaign promise while recognizing a reality that Congress acknowledged over 20 years ago? Not only is he responding to his evangelical base’s wishes with this move on Jerusalem, but he is also recognizing and affirming the need for the peace process to move ahead.
As he said in his speech announcing the decision on Wednesday, “It is time for Jewish people, Christians, and Muslims to join together “in the noble cause for lasting peace.”
This move has been a long time coming. In 1995, Congress approved the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which stated that Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Israel and the US Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem by 1999.
But the law included a stipulation, which allowed presidents to sign waivers to stall the relocation of the embassy. Every president since has used the waiver in an effort to avoid conflict with the peace negotiations.
As evidenced by Trump’s actions, he realized that after 22 years, it’s clear that the physical location of the embassy is immaterial to a peace deal.
Past presidents have failed to follow through on similar promises to our allies in Israel. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all supported recognizing Jerusalem as the official capital, but all abandoned the idea once in the White House.
Trump’s announcement comes amid great criticism from abroad, where many expect violent protests in the Middle East. Here at home, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) wrote in a letter to the President that the move would “spark violence, further alienate the United States and undermine the prospects of a two-state solution.”
Anticipating this backlash, Trump was right to reaffirm his commitment to lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He reiterated in his speech that the United States would support a two-state solution “if agreed to by both sides.”
Millions of evangelical Christians are praising Trump’s decision. This promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem was a big factor in their support for his candidacy. Evangelicals realize there is no country on the face of the earth more pro-American than Israel and have been advocating for recognizing Jerusalem for many years.
Evangelicals view Jerusalem as the epicenter of Christianity and believe that if Israel views Jerusalem as its capital, the United States should as well. Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Action Fund Chairwoman Sandra Hagee Parker tells me this latest move will strengthen America’s position in the world by making it clear that we stand with our allies and will never be bullied by terrorists.
We know Israel stands with us. The reasons for America to support Israel by recognizing Jerusalem are simple:
1. The US and Israel have shared values such as individual freedom, human rights and the protection of minorities.
2. The US and Israel have shared interests to create a peaceful and democratic world.
3. The US and Israel are close allies in the war on terror.
There’s no doubt the President scored points with his base with this promise kept. And many are praying this Mideast move is a step in the right direction for Mideast peace.
As a Christian, I’m pleased to see a president willing to keep his promises by taking a stand to honor the birthplace of Christianity.