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Jerusalem has always been Israel's capital

President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, breaking with decades of U.S. and international policy. Dec. 6, 2017 (Dillon Smith / Chicago Tribune)

Listen to all the naysayers denigrating the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and you will hear one recurring theme: The United states should serve as a “honest broker.” Yet, that is precisely what it has done.

An honest broker must deliver hard truths, and there are few truths more empirically established than the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish nation. That Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel is similarly unassailable, and no rational diplomat would conceive an alternate reality under any settlement of the conflict with the Palestinians.

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King David established his monarchy in Jerusalem more than 3,000 years ago. Remnants of the two Jewish Temples — the Western Wall being only the most prominent — provide tangible and irrefutable evidence of the Jewish kingdom that continued to thrive in Jerusalem until its destruction by the Roman empire in 70 CE.

Rome left Jerusalem in ruins, minting coins — “Judea Capta” — to bear witness to the Judean monarchy that it overran. The Arch of Titus in Rome (ironically, a UNESCO heritage site) memorializes to this day the spoils carried from the Jewish kingdom that UNESCO supporters now perniciously deny.

In the centuries that followed, none of the succeeding occupying forces sought to make Jerusalem its capital. Nor, for that matter, did they pay much heed to it.

But the Jews faithfully established their community in Jerusalem. “Next year in Jerusalem” was not just a prayer, it was the beacon that guided the return of the Jewish people to their land.

Jerusalem was a unified, organic city — with a Jewish majority throughout — when the British mandatory forces departed and the State of Israel was established in 1948. Jerusalem once again became the capital of a Jewish state.

Arab forces invaded the new Jewish state, bringing destruction to Jerusalem yet again. They seized the eastern half of the city, driving out every Jew. Synagogues and other Jewish landmarks were demolished.

The notion of an Arab east Jerusalem was founded upon that destruction and division. Yet, no Arab nation or Muslim people ever sought to make Jerusalem their capital.

Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem brought with it for the first time in centuries a guarantee that peace loving people of all religions can readily access all of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Congress enshrined this, as the policy and law of the United States, in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. Recognizing that “the city of Jerusalem is the spiritual center of Judaism,” the act notes that “each sovereign nation … may designate its own capital,” and that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Further noting that “the United States maintains its embassy in the functioning capital of every country,” the act instructs that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem.”

President Trump’s decision, far from undermining U.S. policy, effectuates a law of the United States.

The truth, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn once observed, “is not difficult to see.” Congress saw it when enacting the Jerusalem Embassy Act into law. But, as Solzhenitsyn concluded, we tend to err because it is more comfortable to do so.

For the sake of comfort in international relations, the waivers of the act by succeeding presidential administrations have distorted the truth and emboldened those who seek to bury it. It has earned us no honor, only scorn.

Those who hate us will continue to do so. A foreign policy that is subjugated to threats — that the Middle East will burn if the embassy is moved — is doomed to fail. In the Middle East, adversaries respect conviction.

Moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem gives form to the truism that Jerusalem is, has been and always will be the capital of the Jewish state, much as it has never been the capital of any other. And that it will remain so in any final resolution of the conflict.

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Can a solution be found to create a Palestinian state that lays claim to an outer neighborhood of Jerusalem as its capital? Perhaps. Such solutions have been proposed. But they will never be achieved by denying the eternal and continuing Jewish presence.

Aron U. Raskas, a Baltimore attorney and former Jerusalem resident, writes often on Middle East affairs. His email is auraskas@gmail.com.

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