Louisville, world process Trump’s historic recognition of Jerusalem

A Haredi Jew worships at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — a move that was met with joy and consternation around the world.

President Donald Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital stirred many Jews to rejoice that their legitimate claim to the ancient and holy city had finally been accepted.
But many others feared the news would breed more violence in the region and make a peace deal harder to achieve.
In making his historic announcement from the White House, Trump said he was directing the State Department to begin the process of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv. Hours after the announcement, though, Trump signed a waiver putting off moving the embassy by another six months.
The Czech Republic and the Philippines have also expressed willingness to move their embassies. The Czech Republic has already recognized the area comprising West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but its foreign ministry has said its embassy would remain in Tel Aviv until Israel and the Palestinians negotiate an agreement.
“This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality,” the president said. “It is also the right thing to do.”
But the president also reaffirmed America’s commitment to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, announcing that he is sending Vice President Mike Pence to the region to reaffirm that commitment.
Notably, the president did not say he recognized Jerusalem as the capital only of Israel, stating that the final status issues, including borders and sovereignty, were being left to the parties to negotiate. He also called for the status quo on holy sites to be maintained.
The president did not set a timetable for moving the embassy from its present location in Tel Aviv, but he directed the State Department to begin the process of hiring architects and planners.
He acknowledged that his decision, while historic, is also potentially volatile.
“We call for calm, moderation and for the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate,” Trump said.
Nevertheless, voices from the around the world were urging the president not to take this step. Pope Francis expressed “profound concern” over the decision.
The Palestinian Authority called for three days of rage and Palestinian Media Watch reported Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the PLO, as saying the decision means “the end of the entire peace process and the pushing of the region – with its peoples and borders – into the furnace of violence, chaos, extremism and bloodshed.”
Demonstrations against Trump’s decision broke out in Turkey as the government threatened to cut ties with the Jewish state.
Most European Union states also opposed the decision to recognize.
Meanwhile, the future of the two-state solution process, of which the United States has always been a leading supporter, has been called into question. U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth panned Trump’s decision for not getting any “concessions” in return from Israel.
“It’s a move that to me makes no sense,” the Louisville Democrat said. “It diminishes the ability of the United States be an honest arbiter in any peace process, and it basically puts us further at odds from many countries in the region, not to mention many of our western allies.”
Yarmuth also feared for the safety of Americans living abroad, who could become soft targets for terrorists.
But Trump, who fulfilled a campaign promise with the decision, said “old challenges demand new approaches.”
Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which accepts the City of David as the capital of Israel and pledges to move the embassy there, but it includes a waiver clause enabling the president to delay its enactment.
Since then, every president until Trump has exercised that clause.
Zionist groups were generally supportive of the move.
AIPAC tweeted that the announcement “is an important, historic step for which we are grateful. We urge the president to quickly relocate our embassy to Israel’s capital.”
It added, “Relocating the embassy to Jerusalem does not in any way prejudge the outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, to include establishing two states for two peoples and resolving Palestinian claims to the eastern portion of the city and the disposition of holy places.”
But J Street called Trump’s dramatic change in U.S. policy “an unhelpful step with no tangible benefits, only serious risks.”
“Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem,” the statement continued, “and it should be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution that also establishes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. In the absence of that final agreement between the parties on the city’s status, blanket recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is premature and divisive.”
In Louisville, Jewish response to announcement ran the gamut.
Rabbi Michael Wolk of Keneseth Israel said the policy shift poses serious questions for Israel.
“In the short term, will this move lead to violence against Israelis and Jews?” he asked in a statement to his congregation. “In the longer term, how will this move affect the chances for peace in the region? Will it bring obstinate participants among Palestinians and Israelis to a serious negotiating table or will it provide another reason to stay away and continue an unhealthy stalemate? I do not know the answers to these questions.”
Ranen Omer-Sherman, professor of Jewish studies at the University of Louisville, criticized Trump for harming the U.S. standing in the peace process.
“As an Israeli citizen and former combat soldier, I am dismayed that he has so cavalierly thrown away any pretense of America as a neutral player in this devastating conflict,” Omer-Sherman said. “I am saddened by the increased likelihood of bloodshed.”
Likewise, Rabbi David Ariel-Joel of The Temple, who grew up in Jerusalem, questioned the wisdom of the move if results in more violence.
The rabbi said he is “offended by the fact that the nations of the world, all of them, do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”
That said, “I am not sure that it is wise diplomatically to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at this moment,” he continued. “Jerusalem is a city that all three major religions see as holy and sacred, and as we know from past experience, this declaration can cause bloodshed.
“It is not worth it if people in Israel (Jews and Palestinians) will be killed because of it,” Ariel-Joel; added. “I rather stay offended by the fact that America, my country now, does not recognize Jerusalem – my birth place – then watch people being killed because of it.”

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