The Story of Jerusalem

Published by marco on

President Trump did something supposedly unprecedented recently: he acknowledged Jerusalem as the de-facto capital of Israel and vowed to move the U.S. embassy there.

When I heard this, I wondered what the uproar was about, since I was sure it wasn’t the first time I’d heard something like this. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it, though. I couldn’t remember whether it was Bush or Obama who’d said something similar, or whether they’d said it during their campaign or as President.

Granted, the media flies off the handle at everything that Trump does, pretending that each new injustice is uniquely terrible. I generally agree with the “terrible” part, but not with the “uniquely terrible” part.


It turns out it was not just Obama and Bush, but also Clinton (for good measure).

According to the article What past US presidents have said about recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation)/Reuters), it turns out that the timeline of talking about Jerusalem as the capital of Israel looks more like this:

  • “In 1993, former president Bill Clinton also came to office saying he supported ‘the principle’ of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem”
  • “[…], the US Congress passed a law in 1995[1] called the Jerusalem Embassy Act which described Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said it should not be divided. […] That law required the US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem by 1999. […] every six months, successive presidents have signed a waiver to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv […].”
  • “ In 2000, in his last year as president, Mr Clinton told Israeli reporters: I have always wanted to move our embassy to west Jerusalem. We have a designated site there.”
  • “In 2000, then Republican candidate George W Bush promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. He too made the comment to AIPAC: Something will happen when I’m president: as soon as I take office I will begin the process of moving the US ambassador to the city Israel has chosen as its capital.”
  • “In 2008, then Democratic candidate Barack Obama called Jerusalem the ‘capital of Israel’”
  • As late as September, 2016, the Obama White House was still waffling on Jerusalem as capital, having to redact an official transcript wherein Jerusalem is indicated as being part of Israel.
  • “In September 2016, Mr Trump promised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would do exactly this if elected. Now, he says he’s delivering: While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver.”
  • December 2017: “US President Donald Trump reversed decades of US policy when he recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel”

[1] So at the same time as we were working on the Oslo II Accords (Wikipedia) and just passed the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Congress made this decision.