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Jewish groups expressed both disappointment and pleasure at President Donald Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Republican Jewish Coalition praised the president for this “significant change in U.S. policy,” which includes a plan to begin the process of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
“President Trump is doing what he does so well: recognizing the reality on the ground. No more false news — Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Norm Coleman, the RJC’s national chairman and a former Minnesota senator, said in a statement.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, tweeted: “It is our long-held position that undivided #Jerusalem is the historic, current and future capital of Israel. We continue to believe that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and implement the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.”
The Jewish people have maintained a constant presence in #Jerusalem, their holiest city, for more than 3,000 years.
Israel declared the city its capital following its reestablishment in 1948.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) December 6, 2017
Mort Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, said that he is “pleased” that Trump is “finally recognizing the obvious,” but wished the president would move more quickly. “I would have preferred he take the existing consulate or another government-owned building, put a sign on it and say this is the embassy, immediately.”
More locally, Danny Grossman, CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, told J., “We remain committed to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and yearn for this to be enshrined in a two-state solution.”
The Bay Area’s Jewish Community Relations Council hit a cautionary note, saying in a statement that while it “has long believed that Jerusalem is – and should be recognized internationally as – the capital of the Jewish and democratic state of Israel… Many in our Jewish community are deeply concerned that today’s announcement will make it harder to achieve the goal of peace, and further divide Israelis and Palestinians” and that there is “therefore a sense that now is not the time for this announcement.”
Some of the strongest support for U.S. recognition of Jerusalem and moving the embassy to that city has come from Evangelical Christians. In that vein, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, called the announcement “a bold, courageous move that is long overdue, and is especially significant coming from Israel’s closest ally. Both Jews and Christians around the world have prayed for this day, which rights a historic wrong by affirming to the world that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”
Criticizing the timing but not the substance of the announcement, the Reform Jewish movement, the largest Jewish stream in the United States, called it “ill-timed but expected.”
The announcement, said Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, “affirms what the Reform Jewish movement has long held: that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Yet while we share the President’s belief that the U.S. Embassy should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we cannot support his decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process.”
Jacobs also said that the White House should not undermine efforts toward making peace between Israel and the Palestinians by “making unilateral decisions that are all but certain to exacerbate the conflict.”
On the other hand, the liberal Israel advocacy group J Street said in a statement that the change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem will undermine Middle East peace efforts and could lead to violence.
Israelis will be the ones to pay the price.
“Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem 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,” J Street said. “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. That is why, since 1967, all administrations have maintained that the final status of the entirety of Jerusalem is to be decided by negotiations, and have avoided any actions that could be interpreted as prejudging their outcome.”
J Street said the decision “could seriously undermine the administration’s stated commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while potentially threatening Israel’s security and alienating Arab regional partners.”
The New Israel Fund, which channels funds to progressive Israeli NGOs, called the president’s decision to begin the process of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem “a dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible move by a dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible American president,” adding that, “Israelis will be the ones to pay the price.”
IfNotNow, an anti-occupation organization, condemned the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as did the Oakland-based Jewish Voice for Peace.
“Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu both know that any change to an already untenable status quo in Jerusalem has the potential to spark deadly violence. Yet they continue to capitulate to the political whims of the far right, advancing extremist policies, with no care about the impact on the lives of everyday Israelis and Palestinians,” IfNotNow said in a statement.
JVP went further, saying the move “endorses Israeli policies of dispossession and forcible transfer, further harming the rights and lives of Palestinians and crushing any hope for a peace based on equality and freedom for everyone in the region.”