The United States Congress passed S-1322 on October 24, 1995, with both houses of Congress voting overwhelmingly in favor (87% for, 8% against). President Bill Clinton let the bill become law without signing or vetoing, and Public Law 104-45, known as the Jerusalem Embassy Act, went on the books.
The Act recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and imposes steep (50%) holdbacks against State Department funding for “Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad” for each fiscal year that the U.S. embassy in Israel is not moved to Jerusalem.
It has been the position of each administration since Clinton to sign a waiver to delay the Act’s implementation every six months. Today, President Trump will not sign the waiver, fulfilling a major campaign promise.
Sitting on the fence for 22 years with an unenforced law is no way to conduct foreign policy. It’s disingenuous and blatantly unfair to the rest of the world. Yet the world is treating this law as if it’s something new and destabilizing.
In his phone calls with Arab leaders, Mr. Trump is making the case that settling the question of the American Embassy could actually hasten the peace process by removing a thorny political issue that recurs every six months.
It’s good to divide the wheat from the chaff and see who stands with western democracy, and who stands with fence-sitting (or with hardline regimes that want to destroy Israel). Germany, for one, is standing with Israel’s enemies.
Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday warned against a unilateral American recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Speaking at a conference in Berlin, Gabriel added a fierce statement to his warning, saying that Germany would have to "spell out where the limits" of its solidarity stood.
Remember, Public Law 104-45 has been on the books in America for 22 years. The limits of solidarity apparently end where NATO’s protection is no longer needed.
Germany is not the only one.
Trump is doing something that’s needed to be done for years. Clinton and Bush only wanted coalitions when the issues were easy. Obama wanted to realign the power structure of the Middle East and that’s led to the biggest bloodletting since World War II. In any other context, he’d be facing war criminal charges.
The question is simple: Do other nations want to be friendly with America or not? If so, then America’s right to implement a 22-year-old law cannot be questioned. Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East, and like all other nations, it should have the right to declare its own capital.
In the end, peace is best served by putting the issue behind us. As long as we sit on the fence, nothing will move forward. It appears Trump spent much time securing the tacit approval of Saudi interests (with Kushner’s multiple trips) before going ahead.
How will the Palestinians react? As they always do at the slightest opportunity.
One more time: The Jerusalem Embassy Act has been law in the U.S. for 22 years, when Bill Clinton didn’t veto it (because it would have been overridden). This is the will of the U.S. government. No Congress since has repealed it—even in 2010 when Democrats could have and surely Obama would have signed it.
Israel’s capital has always been Jerusalem and the U.S. government chose to recognize that in law. The fact that the law had a loophole which presidents used to delay implementation is not relevant here. This is the best move President Trump has made since he took office.