President Trump last week declared that the United States embassy in Israel would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, essentially officially recognizing Israel’s claim that Jerusalem is their capital.
The United States has already considered Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, at least on paper, since Congress enacted the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995. However Presidential administrations have for decades used a mechanism in the bill to continually delay the embassy’s move, thus denying material recognition.
The administration’s move last week at last gives our previous political dance certainty and resolve as we show our support for a vital American ally, as well as harbinger of liberal democracy, in the Middle East.
Many made it seem like this move was more controversial than it actually was. Furthermore, the historical complexities of the issue are hopelessly deep-seeped in politics and for which mountains of books have been written to no avail.
Nonetheless, it is worthwhile at this stage to examine why Israel remains so important for America and our values historically, presently, and undoubtedly in the future.
Israel remains a key bulwark of liberal democracy in the Middle East. While most Middle Eastern nations embrace forms of government ranging from monarchy to Islamic Republics to strongman-rule, Israel remains a healthy Western-style republic in the region.
For many Americans, myself included, Israel also holds special religious significance. I still remember vividly the splendor of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, and other Holy Sites during my church’s visit to Israel last year. To see sites that we had previously only had read about in the Bible gave a feeling of humility and wonder beyond description.
Furthermore, it is worth noting the incredible grit, strength, as well as restraint of the Israeli people. Here we have an entire population that is literally under siege around the clock from everything from rocket attacks to restaurant bombings to stabbings. Here we have a nation where essentially every citizen, male or female, is required to perform service in the Israeli Defense Forces.
During our visit last year in Israel, while we were in Jerusalem for a few days there were almost a half-dozen terror attacks in the city during just that time. It is difficult to imagine living a life perpetually under such threat, yet the Israeli people find joy, optimism, generosity, as well as restrained responses of military force, despite that perpetual setting.
Undoubtedly, we have many essential allies in the Arab world too and our alliances there remain essential for historical joint efforts in combating extremism as well as in ensuring regional and world stability and understanding.
The Jerusalem issue is an extraordinarily complex one with the Arab world, particularly in part due to the controversy over the religiously-significant Temple Mount, but as we have seen in the past week perhaps the embassy move itself was not as actually material to our Arab partners as some believed it was.
While we often have had delicate “frenemy” relationships with some of our Arab partners, it is worth remembering that Israel has always remained our steadfast friend and partner in a variety of geopolitical efforts.
Whenever the United States has supported a motion or action in the United Nations that faced some international backlash, Israel has always backed the United States almost every time.
During the Obama administration our relationship with Israel undoubtedly deteriorated due to measures such as the Iran Deal, censure votes at the United Nations, and various other diplomatic actions.
Our country has been deeply involved in the Middle East for several decades with our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as ubiquitous diplomatic interventions. Undoubtedly with geopolitical developments in Syria, Iran, Yemen, and Turkey all heating up, we shall continue to be quite involved for years to come.
In these upcoming conflicts and debates, it is worth remembering who has always had America’s back during these struggles and whose determination should be an inspiration to us all.
Peace in the Middle East is a lofty, difficult, and admirable goal, and to achieve it we need to remember to support those at the negotiating table who steadfastly stand with us.