By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
When Ted Cruz was in Huntsville campaigning in the sweltering heat of August of 2015, he announced to the crowd that was packed in the room to listen to him speak that the first thing he would do on the first day of his presidency would be “to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” The crowd stomped and cheered. When I had my ten seconds with the guy for a photo op, I quipped, “And, you will have Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) over for lunch!” “Great idea!” he said, laughing as the camera clicked. Our mutual and momentary humorous reference was to the fact that when a different POTUS was in the Oval Office, Bibi was essentially made to wait in the lunchroom while the President finished his dinner. No state dinner, not even an invitation to the Residence for a quick bite or a pepperoni-free slice. It was embarrassing, especially if you live in a region which is as legendary for its hospitality as is the South.
That same POTUS had said in 2008 that any agreement with the Palestinians “must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state with secure, recognized, defensible borders. And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”
Interestingly, when former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich briefly ran for the Presidency in 2011, he promised the same thing as Senator Cruz, as did then-rival Presidential candidate U.S Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. She said during a televised debate, “Of moving the embassy, I already have secured a donor who said they will personally pay for the ambassador’s home to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” She then told the audience, “Like you, my commitment is unequivocal and unchanging. We stand with Israel.”
I walked into the Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful office on December 6th, the day President Donald Trump announced that he had hauled off and done what had been promised way back in 1995; he had called for us to keep our word, and move the embassy. By “word,” I mean that on October 23rd of that year, the 104th U.S. Senate voted 93-5, and the House voted 374-37 to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. However, no one in the Oval Office had done anything to make that happen, and as weird as this may sound, no US Embassy on the planet has ever been located anywhere than the capital of a sovereign nation, except in Israel.
Happy tears as the result of Lynne Hart’s enthusiastic “breaking news” greeted my cheeks, and I could only imagine what the response was in Israel. While the mainstream news warned that this would only serve to cause the region to blow up…again, the truth of the matter is that with the exception of a few flag burners, the response in Israel was one of gratitude, not so much to President Trump, but to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
From the Wailing Wall clear back up to the hillside terraces that start at the street, thousands of people crammed the area. They were not dancing, and trust me, Israelis know how to dance. They were praying, and I am sure they were celebratory prayers. Yet, the question remains: Why is this such a big deal? Because every country should have the right to determine the location of its own capital, and we were simply acknowledging that. It is not the business of “the international community,” and hopefully the US will be followed by other allies in respecting Israel’s rights as a democratic state and our strongest ally. Even people who hate Israel acknowledge that Jerusalem has always been seen as the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and anyone with common sense knows that if you attack a country, as happened 50 years ago in the Six Day War, and you lose, you forfeit anything you thought you had claim to. These are the universal rules of war, end of story.
This December, when light is such an important part of the celebration season of Jews and Christians, when the impossible is recorded, remembered, acknowledged and feted, let us remember that even the promise of upholding an American law and keeping our collective word is an act of courage, and true courage will always chase the worst darkness.