Nov. 9, 2017
Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem: Challenges and Opportunities – Amb. Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Amb. Dore Gold told the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Nov. 8:
- President Donald Trump has made a commitment to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and I believe he will stand by what he has said. The U.S. will evaluate the timing and circumstances for executing that decision in accordance with its interests.
- The embassy question is a subset of a much more important issue: the need for Western recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The denial of recognition helps fuel the dangerous fantasy that Israel is impermanent and illegitimate – that the presence of the Jews is an imposition because the land is not their homeland.
- The main international interest in Jerusalem concerns the protection of the holy sites and assuring complete freedom of access to them. The State of Israel and the people of Israel assumed responsibility for protecting Jerusalem’s holy sites in 1967, when Jerusalem was re-united after the Six-Day War.
- For etched into the collective consciousness of all of us is what happened to Jerusalem when we were absent. It is clear that only a free and democratic Israel will protect the holy sites of all the great faiths in Jerusalem. To the extent that the U.S. reinforces Israel’s standing in Jerusalem, it is reinforcing the position of the only international actor that will protect Jerusalem’s holy sites.
- After the PLO launched the Second Intifada in 2000, Palestinian security services assaulted Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. In 2002, armed Palestinians forcibly entered the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – one of the holiest sites for Christianity – seized the Christian clergy as hostages and looted church valuables.
- Another repeated target for attack was Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, which the Palestinian side undertook to protect in the Oslo II Agreement. The site was repeatedly ransacked and torched. Indeed, aggression against holy sites has become a hallmark of many jihadi groups across the Middle East.
- The question of the location of the U.S. Embassy is really a question of whether the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s permanent capital – sending a signal to the world that efforts to delegitimize Israel and to rewrite the history of other religions will fail. By recognizing Jerusalem and moving its embassy, the U.S. would help promote peace and security in the region.
Amb. Dore Gold, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center.