(May 14, 2018 / JNS) On May 14, the morning of Israel’s 70th anniversary of statehood, American and Israeli delegates celebrated together in honor of the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israeli Knesset members from multiple parties were present at the reception hosted by the Orthodox Union, in addition to members of the American delegation.
That group included Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt; U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman; Deputy Secretary of State and head of the American delegation John Sullivan; Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin; former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman; Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.); Florida Gov. Rick Scott; and a number of leaders from the Christian evangelical community, including Trump’s spiritual adviser, Pastor Paula White, and Pastor Mario Bramnick, president of the Latino Coalition for Israel.
Sen. Lieberman told JNS that “Israel is here to stay, and its capital will be where it’s always been: Jerusalem.”
He also expressed his gratitude to Christian Zionists for their presence and support, saying: “It’s a great thing and a unifying thing, too. This is not just a Jewish project. None of this would have happened in 1995, and certainly not today, without the support of our Christian brothers and sisters.”
Friedman also recognized the evangelical community and Trump’s courageous decision to move the embassy. “When it comes to the State of Israel, we are not alone,” he said. “We have great friends in the evangelical community. Israel is now taking its place as a light unto the nations, and the nations of the world are returning to Israel led by Israel’s greatest friend, the United States of America.”
He added that “none of this would have happened without strength, vision and moral clarity of the president of the United States. We return to moral clarity and truth when we support the United States’ allies, including its strongest ally, the State of Israel.”
Mnuchin expressed his pride in serving the Trump administration and being in Jerusalem for the historic event. “It’s a day 70 years in the making—20 years after Congress passed a law to move the embassy to Jerusalem,” he noted, adding that prior presidents continually signed a temporary waiver keeping the embassy as is. “Trump is moving it because it’s a national security priority to have the embassy here in Jerusalem and also the right thing to do.”
He continued: “Recognizing one of our greatest partner’s capital [city] and moving our embassy is a big step in our relationship with Israel.”
Mnuchin also commented on the administration’s departure from the Iran nuclear deal, declaring its relevance that both measures occurred in the same week. “Ensuring that Iran does not get nuclear weapons and export terrorism throughout the region is the right thing to do to support the U.S., Israel and the rest of the world,” he said.
‘A very, very important declaration’
Israeli delegates included former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Knesset member Zeev Elkin (Likud); Knesset member Isaac Herzog (Labor); Minister of Education Naftali Bennett (The Jewish Home); Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked (The Jewish Home); Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel (Likud); Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel (The Jewish Home); Deputy Minister of Defense Eli Ben-Dahan (The Jewish Home); and Deputy Minister and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren (Kulanu).
Bennett declared: “America made the first courageous and bold move, and now we expect other states to follow. Do they want to take part in history or miss out? It’s theirs to decide, but Jerusalem is here to stay.”
He called Trump a true chaver (“friend”) who has whisked in a new formula for ultimate peace. And instead of land for peace, it’s now peace for peace, said Bennett.
Shaked expressed her pride and excitement over the transfer of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying “for the Jewish people, it was always our capital city, but for the world this was a very, very important declaration.” She associated Trump’s Jerusalem declaration with Edmund Allenby’s Jerusalem declaration in 1898.
Herzog noted that “in Hebrew, we say ‘stages, stages’ [meaning, ‘bit by bit’]. Today is one of those stages.”
He thanked the United States for the “bold and outstanding resolution that does justice to the Jewish people, the State of Israel and Jerusalem,” and urged Israel and America to together strive for peace as they strive for boldness.
Elkin maintained that the recognition of Israel’s capital took 51 years, but stated that the Jewish people were waiting for this recognition for 3,000 years. He looked forward to the international community recognizing Jerusalem as the Jewish capital, and to those who do not, he said: “My answer to these voices saying there is no Jewish connection here is obvious—read the Bible. Look at the archaeological evidence. If we believe in truth, the truth will win.”
Also present was Sandra Jovel, the Guatemalan Minister of Foreign Affairs. Guatemala plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem on May 16, just two days after America’s move.
Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union told JNS, “for the OU, this is the culmination of decades of work, advocacy and efforts that we made before the U.S. legislation in the 1990s.”
He noted that “we advocated for recognition in every administration, to get a commitment to effectuate the law that had been written. We waited a long time, as did the Israeli government and the people of Israel, for a recognition of what should have been an obvious fact, which is that every country has the right to determine for itself where its capital is located.
“This recognition of the capital by the U.S.,” he said, “is a concrete manifestation of a reality that has existed for a substantial amount of time. We are joyous that this recognition has taken place.”