On May 14, 2018—exactly the same date and even the same hour that David Ben-Gurion announced Israel’s independence 70 years earlier—I presided over the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, the eternal and undivided capital of the State of Israel. Apart from family milestones, it was the greatest day of my life, and an experience I will never forget.
Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was, of course, deeply meaningful to Israel’s citizens and all of world Jewry. It was a firm rejection of the false claim that Jerusalem could or should be divorced from Israel’s national identity. Even more important, it was the recognition by the leader of the free world that Jerusalem, indeed, represents the realization of thousands of years of fervent prayers by an ancient people to be restored to their national capital.
But moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem also said something more universal. It demonstrated that the United States would stand resolutely with its allies and would not cower in fear from threats of rogue nations or terrorists. That message resonated throughout the world—from Moscow to Teheran to Pyon Yang. When historians study the reasons why there were no new wars anywhere in the world during the Trump administration, I believe that the signals sent by the United States in moving its embassy to Jerusalem will be among the key factors.
I have often been asked, “How were you so sure that moving the U.S. embassy would not lead to outbreaks of global violence?” The answer is that I wasn’t sure. Although we studied the security issues extensively, no one could be sure that no terrorist would emerge anywhere on the planet. But I believed that we were on the side of history and doing God’s will, and that that would be enough to keep us safe. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah predicted many years ago that our actions would advance the cause of peace.
The paradigmatic biblical verse prophesying world peace is in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 2, verse 4: “Nation will not lift up sword against nation nor study war anymore.” So widely known and accepted is this verse that it is carved into the wall across the street from the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
But Isaiah doesn’t just foresee peace on earth, he also explains how it is to be achieved. In the prior verses, he prophesied that the nations of the world will all come to Jerusalem to learn God’s ways and follow his paths. Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, God will resolve their differences and then, and only then, “nation will not lift up sword against nation nor study wear anymore.”
How does a nation “come to Jerusalem?” By moving its embassy to that holy city. Isaiah makes clear that the road to peace runs through Jerusalem. Perhaps that is why the name “Jerusalem” means “City of Peace.”
In May 2018, most of the world’s pundits predicted that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would cause endless wars and unresolvable conflicts. Some 2,800 years earlier, Isaiah predicted that the move would lead to peace. Isaiah was right! After we moved our embassy, Israel succeeded in normalizing relations with four Muslim countries—the Abraham Accords.
Some have said that the Abraham Accords were achieved despite moving our embassy to Jerusalem. No, the Abraham Accords were signed because of the move. In moving our embassy, we ended the fantasy within parts of the Arab world that Israel might cease to exist or that the bond between Israel and America could be broken. We demonstrated that the United States will always stand with Israel but, at the same time, we signaled that the United States was prepared to stand as well with nations of good faith who are prepared to combat extremism and bring about a more stable and peaceful Middle East. Our message to moderate Sunni nations was as clear then as was Isaiah’s message in ancient times: the path to better relations with America runs through Jerusalem.
This is the formula for Middle East peace and it all began on May 14, 2018, with the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.
David M. Friedman is the former U.S. ambassador to Israel. He served between 2017 and 2021.
Originally published by Israel Hayom.