Numerous unconfirmed reports are circulating in the international media that President Donald Trump intends announcing Monday that he will relocate the U.S. embassy to Israel from the coastal city of Tel Aviv to the capital city of Jerusalem.
The core of the Arab and Muslim rejection of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a rejection of Jewish claims to religious and historical connection to the city itself. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat once turned down an offer of shared sovereignty over the Temple Mount because, as he told then-President Bill Clinton, he saw the Jewish claim to the holy site as fictitious.
In 1995, Congress mandated that the U.S. move the embassy to Israel through the Jerusalem Embassy Act. The law, however, contained a waiver that allowed the president to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv, acknowledging the supremacy of the executive in determining the foreign policy of the U.S. Trump’s pledge on Monday — if it comes to fruition — would decline that waiver.
Opponents of the decision to move the embassy have warned that it would set off violence in the Arab world. But it would also inspire joyful celebrations in Israel and around the world, as the U.S. would likely inspire other countries to follow its example, and would help Israel cement its national vision of “a free nation in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-settler Jewish Home Party, was pressing the government to back legislation that would annex Maaleh Adumim, a sprawling West Bank settlement just east of Jerusalem. He also urged Netanyahu to abandon his stated position in favor of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Deputy Mayor Meir Turjeman, who heads the committee, said an additional 11,000 homes were planned in east Jerusalem. He said he hopes to get the plans approved by the end of the year and begin construction in the next two to three years.
Israel clashed frequently with Obama over construction in areas it conquered in the 1967 Mideast war, and last month, the Obama White House allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution condemning settlements as illegal.
In a sign of the changing times, a delegation of West Bank settler leaders said it was invited by Trump administration officials to attend the inauguration.