Here in West Los Angeles, it’s social suicide to suggest that our president has done anything right or noble or good. But in moving America’s embassy to Jerusalem next week, President Trump managed all three. And he signaled to the world that Israel’s capital should no longer be treated as Jews’ private delusion.
Next to the other events of this presidency, the U.S.-embassy move can seem like a footnote. Jerusalem has long functioned as Israel’s capital — home to the Knesset, the supreme court, residences of Israel’s president and prime minister. And yet, barring a miraculous breakout of peace on the Korean Peninsula, the Jerusalem-embassy move is a strong candidate for Trump’s most enduring presidential achievement.
As a technical matter, the move represented no great change in U.S. policy. With overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers, Congress directed the American embassy to be moved to Jerusalem back in 1995. But the Jerusalem Embassy Act contained a waiver, allowing each president to welch if he chose. Every president for 22 years so chose.
Common knowledge in Washington among cognoscenti has long been that regardless of what our law says, Israel is different. Israel is always different. Recognizing this sovereign nation’s choice of capital simply could not be done. What would the neighbors say? Such a move would enrage Palestinians, inflame the region. Following the will of the American people, in this instance, was something a president just couldn’t do.
That is, until we had a president who bristled at being told what he just couldn’t do. Who seems to view political niceties as an irresistible taunt, the martini glass that begs to be broken. Inflame a region? You might as well have waved a red flag in his face.