By Robert Laurie
Today, after decades of delays, President Trump finally fulfilled a promise made way back in 1995 when Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, the Act ordered the embassy’s construction to begin in 1996.
As the Washington Post reported in 2017:
Spurred by the desire to act before Rabin’s visit, the House and Senate passed a bill called the “Jerusalem Embassy Act,” which formally recognized the city as the country’s capital and called for the U.S. Embassy in Israel to be moved there from Tel Aviv by 1999. Support for the bill was overwhelming. It passed the Senate by a 93 to 5 vote, with four Republicans and one Democrat voting no. It passed the House 374 to 37, with 153 Democrats joining most of the new Republican majority that had swept into power in 1994.
However, to placate fears that the move would destroy the allegedly-existent peace process, a provision was attached which let the President delay the Jerusalem embassy for six months. This provision was used every six months by every President since – all of whom were desperate to avoid the issue.
The bill was not signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. The Embassy Act, Clinton said in a statement, “could hinder the peace process. I will not let this happen and will use the legislation’s waiver authority to avoid damage to the peace process.”
That waiver authority was a critical escape valve for Clinton and his successors. Initially, the legislation introduced by then-Kansas senator Bob Dole (R) mandated that groundbreaking on a new embassy in Jerusalem begin in 1996. To quell concerns from Clinton allies on the Hill, Dole added a provision that allowed the president to postpone implementation of the move for six months if “such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.”
The bill became law after Clinton declined to sign it for a 10-day period while Congress was in session. He, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all postponed the embassy move every six months for each of the 22 years since the law was enacted.
Now, the delays have come to an end. Today, the United States officially opened its Jerusalem embassy, and President Trump released the following filmed statement:
“On December 6th, 2017, at my direction, the United States finally and officially recognized Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel. Today we follow through on this recognition and open our embassy in the historic and sacred land of Jerusalem.” #USEmbassyJerusalem pic.twitter.com/lne5FB7sB8
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 14, 2018
That’s great news. It’s long past time for the United States to stop kicking cans.