Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for more than 3,000 years, and the capital of the state of Israel for 70. Just this last week, in a historic decision, President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as such. While some may argue otherwise, this celebrated announcement undoubtedly triggers the peace process.
President Trump reflected a just and courageous message of the United States saying that enough is enough. The Palestinians should stop putting pressure on the international community and negotiate directly with the Israelis. Trump’s decision says to the Palestinians that the state of Israel is a sovereign nation and should control where their own capital is and the U.S., as the closest ally of the state of Israel, will support it.
This momentous announcement is not an obstacle to peace; in fact it jumpstarts the peace process. It jumpstarts the peace process because in any agreement, Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel as it has been for the past 70 years since Israel’s statehood. As Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated for his peace effort, said in 1995 after the Jerusalem Embassy act passed, there is no peace agreement without Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish nation.
We hope that the Palestinians take from this that Israel is willing to sit down at the negotiating table, as we have always been. For years we have been trying to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table; however, thus far, our efforts have been unsuccessful.
President Trump is coming with a different, fresh approach. Jerusalem is merely 12 miles from Ramallah, thus it is counterproductive and unnecessary for the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel through the United Nations building in New York. If the Palestinians really want to achieve peace, it can be done at the negotiating table directly with us. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is not an obstacle to the peace process; the unwillingness of the other side to negotiate is.
It troubles me to learn of the violence that this announcement brought. We must differentiate between the radicals and moderates. When we talk about radicals, they will always find a reason for violence. If two weeks ago they had 100 reasons for violence, maybe this week they have 101 reasons. Violence is not an ideology we encourage and we will not be held hostage or cave in to threats of violence. If we did, we would not have had the independent state of Israel today.
We call upon the Palestinians leadership to not call for violence either. For the past 70 years, we have been disheartened that Jerusalem was not recognized as our capital but we have never once called for violence. We have used our pens, our voices and our advocacy. We call on the other side to do just that.
It is important to note that the status quo that allows all religions to freely worship at their holy sites in Jerusalem will remain in place. As the beacon for democracy in the Middle East, freedom of worship is a human right we take seriously. Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.
As we celebrate Hanukkah, this year we are again celebrating in our capital Jerusalem, but this time it isn’t because of a miracle. Instead we are celebrating this year because the world, starting with the United States, is acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Happy holidays.
Aviv Ezra is the consul general of Israel to the Midwest.
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