Moving the US Embassy in Israel

From a pragmatic point of view, it is in the worst possible policy box.


  1. Mercury:

    Funny, poking a stick in the eye of all things Western Civilization generally and everything and everyone specifically perceived to be on the upper end of the Cultural-Marxist power ranking spectrum of race/class/gender have resulted in unmitigated, pragmatic “wins” for the Left for decades now…

    If Trump's USA is such a third-rate world power and has-been example of human potential and greatness it shouldn't bother anyone where the hell our embassy is, should it?

    And oh yeah, the Left arranged things at the UN a long time ago so that "political" was removed as a qualifying motivation for attempting to wipe out an entire people. So, if all those farmers were killed in the 1930s because they were Ukrainians it's "genocide" BUT, as the Russians successfully argued in 2008 before the relevant, august, international authorities, if all those Ukrainians were killed because they were farmers, it's not genocide. Put that in your symbolic pipe and smoke it.

  2. Ward Chartier:

    Putting the embassy in Jerusalem will have huge cost and will return little more than political symbolism. During and after construction, the site and building might as well have a huge target painted on it.

    The construction costs will be massive. The ongoing security costs will be a major burden. The risk to the lives of local and American staffers will be unacceptable.

  3. bobby_b:

    1. Just to stem some of the expected "damn that Trump" vitriol, let's remember that in June the Senate voted 90-0 to make this move. 90-0! Trump was merely carrying it out. In fact, the 90-0 vote was to stop what all presidents from 1995 have done, which was to ignore the 1995 law that said that our embassy should be moved to Jerusalem. So Trump has simply, finally, carried out a 1995 US Federal law that no one has sought to overturn.

    2. Was Turkey responsible for genocide? Isn't the answer to this rather dispositive of whether it ought to be called out? Do we choose all of our actions based on convenience? Your table implies this.

  4. ErikTheRed:

    I don't think that Trump even thinks in these terms. It's all about manipulating the media cycle and focusing the outrage du jour, kind of like a magician who distracts you into looking one place while he's performing the trick someplace else. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on one's opinion of Trump. My personal theory is that he's there to create a money / power base for his kids to inherit. I don't see any particular hidden wisdom in the overwhelming majority of his moves (the exceptions being some of the deregulation that's been going on quietly in the background).

  5. Unknown Commenter:

    It's all in the name on the buildings of the diplomatic missions. We suspect that there will be no lock, stock, and barrel move of resources to Jerusalem after the theatrical production, but your mileage may vary.

  6. kidmugsy:

    Trump should argue that if the present state of Israel is meant to be the successor state to ancient Israel its capital should be at ancient Samaria, not at Jerusalem - which was the capital of Judah, not of Israel.

    If he were to tweet that it would put the cat among the pigeons for long enough to allow any decision to be deferred until this historical point is absorbed.

  7. mckyj57:

    Not doing things because Muslims might kill you is cowardice. And we have encouraged them because we have been cowardly. They keep making the threats, and as long as we modify our behavior because of them, they will keep doing it.

    And it is not like they are into negotiating peace. They refuse to make the simplest and most fundamental steps, such as stopping payments to suicide bombers or removing their goal of destroying Israel from their charter.

    We have been lily-livered for too long. It is time to stop appeasing these terrorists. Arabs have terrible lives because they have a terrible culture, not because of oppression. They have tossed generation after generation of their children into the toilet, and seemingly will keep doing so until something changes. Well something has changed. I am not a Trump fan, but I am a fan of this move.

  8. The_Big_W:

    So we're supposed to believe that THIS time peach would have been achievable if only the US had decided not to move the embassy.

    The Palestinians have never been serious about piece, so if the problems of moving the embassy are its "effects on the peace process", then the move makes no difference.

  9. CapnRusty:

    You underestimate the power of symbolism. Some symbols give us the courage to fight for what is good. To strive for freedom. To uphold truth.

    Consider: The Statue of Liberty. The man stopping the tanks in Tiananman Square. Joan of Arc.

    Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel defies Islamic terrorism.

  10. CapnRusty:

    So, Ward, you'd rather "lead from behind?"

  11. Mercury:

    RE: 1. Indeed. and that sounds a lot more like: "Fixing a Mis-worded law" as per the above 'Policy Box' and also agrees with my assertion that the Left's many gambits over the years have been foolishly perceived as largely symbolic while in actuality they yielded Low Cost/Tangible Results for them.

  12. SamWah:

    Well. as John Wayne said, Sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

  13. me:

    The thing that angers me about this is more that it takes away from in depth coverage of the most impactful and critical bill we ought to be discussing in detail - the tax plans.

    To me, this is a replay of Obama and ACA: the left held the house, senate and presidency and was supposed to improve healthcare, and we all know what we got instead. Same deal today, the right holds house, senate and presidency and can't get together a real meaningful tax plan. It's as if they hadn't prepared for this at all.

  14. johnson85:

    yea, I think you missed on this one. There's no reason no to have the embassy in a foreign countries capital. Refusing to put the embassy in the right place is seen by terrorist factions of Palestinians and other Israel hating groups as tacit admission the Israel is somehow less legitimate than other countries. Nobody can make palestinians want peace, but we shouldn't be encouraging them with (hopefully) false hope that the U.S. really doesn't believe Israel is legitimate.

  15. roystgnr:

    Not blaming Turkey for genocide led Hitler to wonder "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?", which led to tens of millions of deaths. Trying to avoid that sort of thing sounds tangible enough to me.

    More generally: All communication is symbolic. All tangible results on any scale larger than a single human being's actions are obtained via coordinating communication. Therefore if you want significant tangible results, you need to take symbolic measures, Q.E.D.

  16. Aimless6:

    They didn't. The Republican Party agreed it was Hillary's turn. So they let the throw away candidate take the blame for the loss.
    That plan failed to fail.

    The party had a year to think up something new. But because of all the twatter nonsense, if there was anything useful, it did not make the news.

  17. johnmoore:

    Symbolic actions are often very important in the real world. This was one of them.

    Jerusalem is Israel's capital - that is a fact. Having our embassy there simply makes sense, and not having it there is being cowed by political correctness.

    If you don't stand for what is right, don't be surprised when the right things don't happen.

  18. Ugasailor:

    I agree with mckyj57: "Not doing things because Muslims might kill you is cowardice." How about standing on principal: Here are the facts about Jerusalem ( So what if the U.S. pisses of Islamists.

  19. Variant:

    Have to disagree. This has been a long time coming. There will always be unrest in the Middle East as long as the governments there continue to be ruled by 13th century religious dogma... it's high time we stopped letting the threat of violence stop us from doing what's right and acting in our own best interests as well as that of one of our staunchest allies.

    Standing ovation for this decision.

  20. me:

    Wow, never thought of it that way - it's a really good interpretation, it actually makes sense of the things I've been griping about. Thank you :)

  21. mx:

    Ok, but I was told that, under Trump, the US was only going to do things in the world that are in our own interest, that he's the great negotiator. What did we get out of doing this? It's clear that there are costs (ranging from increased threats to US facilities abroad to greater difficulty in diplomatic efforts), but what are the benefits to us? How are we in a better place in the world today than we were yesterday?

  22. An Inquirer:

    It is not in our best interest to act as cowards . . . to single out one country and to say that it cannot have its capitol where it has its capitol.
    Also, it is possible . . . but not definite . . . that this could help the peace process. We have a history of bending over backwards to appease the Palestinians, with little to show for it. This move could send a message that they are better off getting serious about a peace process, or else we are moving on without them.

  23. An Inquirer:

    What is called Israel today is best described as the successor of ancient Judah. The diaspora of Jews from Jerusalem sent Jews all over the world. It is their return that has lead to the modern state of Israel.

  24. kidmugsy:

    If modern Israel is a reconstituted Judah, shouldn't it be rather smaller than it already is? Wider, I'll grant you, but shorter. Or is my biblical geography awry?

  25. mckyj57:

    We get out of the place where we deny reality. Capitulating to terrorists in this case has brought us nothing but wasted money and time, and constraint of strategic options. Opponents of the move claim this will "hurt the peace process". My response is, "What peace process?" The Arabs that style themselves Palestinians have made exactly zero concessions and refuse to even make the most minor public statement affirming Israel's right to exist. They have turned down countless concrete offers to start making progress to normalize relations. It is clear that their leaders have been bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and other Arab interests with specific tasking to *prolong*, not end, this conflict. The Arab leaders have been playing the bread and circuses game for a long time, and this is the cornerstone of that strategy.

    When this is done, we can start tearing down other things which cost us money, time, and clarity. For example, UNWRA. It is ludicrous that 70 years after the war that made them "refugees", there are still Arabs classified as such receiving full UN aid 22% paid for by the United States. There are no more refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war started by an Arab invasion. To continue to deny that at an historic cost of tens of billions of dollars is insane, yet here we are.

  26. Nehemiah:

    The PLO, Hamas and others do not want peace. Their power base and financial support depend on a constant state of conflict with "little satan". The President's decision is a statement in support of a free and democratic state and a rebuke of the status quo which is ongoing terrorism and violence. The violence may spike for a bit, but the dynamics on the ground have changed for the better in my opinion.

    And what do we get out of the move. We get credibility on the world stage. For decades US leadership (Senate, House and President) have postured regarding Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We had lost all credibility on the issue. Trump said he was going to do it and has. That in itself creates a paradigm shift in geopolitical thinking and our relationships in the middle east. Frankly, I find it refreshing to have a President who is doing what he said he would do. Whether you agree with everything is a different matter. Stability in the world increases when the US policy positions are taken seriously.

  27. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    Probably a great question, but the answer is going to be subjective with caveats of "it depends." Although some modern-day historians question whether the Jews ever were in Egypt, the Biblical narrative has the Jews exiting Egypt around 1500 BC and occupying a far more extensive Middle East area than present day Israel. Around 1000 BC King David and King Solomon extended Israel even more, occupying huge areas east of the Jordan River and Galilee as well as extensive southern reaches.. Following King Solomon, Israel split into two, with the northern (10 tribes) nation retaining the name Israel while the southern 2 tribes taking on the name Judah. After a couple hundred of years, Assyria conquered the northern nation of Israel, and took its inhabitants as slaves. That northern nation never reformed again. After another century or two, Babylon conquered Judah and took its upper class into captivity in Babylon. After 70 years, the captives returned and eventually occupied not only old Judah, but much of the old Israel as well. The Maccabees ruled an Israel that occupied both sides of the Jordan and stretched from the Dead Sea up toward Galilee. The Roman Empire recognized Jewish states as being not only ancient Judah but also ancient Israel. It is from the Roman Jewish territory that the third Jewish Diaspora occurred -- the first two being slavery in Egypt and the captivity in Babylon.

  28. Ward Chartier:

    When there is a choice, I’d rather not lead with the lives of American embassy staffers.

  29. CapnRusty:

    Tell you what, Ward, just sit there and signal your virtue while the men go out and fight the bullies for you. You'd only get in the way if you joined them.

  30. richard66:


    You put moving the embassy in the high cost-symbolic categorie. Shouldn't it be in the low cost-tangible results categorie?

    Moving an embassy is not that expensive (compared to the overall costs of the israeli-palestina conflict) and it may send a clear signal: the days of frustrating the peace process are over.

    It seems to me Trump is doing what should have been done years ago.

  31. Ward Chartier:

    I served in the Army. Do you have such history?

  32. CapnRusty:

    USAF 68-72

  33. asm826:

    This isn't Trump's decision. This is the decision of the U.S. Congress. He just allowed it to become policy.

  34. Ward Chartier:

    We share a similar background. Also, I read your other comment, and you have a point. For my part, I would not order my people into a situation that would compromise their safety, and even their lives, for a political Potemkin Village. If it came to it, I would ask for volunteers. If it was possible, I’d offer compensation for the risk.

  35. mx:

    Again, what do _we_ get out of it? That's the foreign policy ideology we were all promised. Is there really no benefit to the US from this action besides demonstrating that we can do things? Because I'd like to see the cost-benefit analysis that determined this was worth it for the sole purpose of demonstrating that the President is capable of signing a piece of paper.

  36. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    Actually, it was NOT signing a piece of paper that led to the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capitol. According to U.S. law, the president must sign a paper each year declaring that not recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol is in the nation's best interest -- or else Jerusalem is recognized as the capitol. Trump did not sign that determination.

    What does the U.S. get out of this decision? Among other things mentioned, we are now dealing with reality. It is hard to be effective -- and there are costs involved -- if we live in a fantasy land. The reality is that Jerusalem is the capitol. The reality is that we have hounded and restricted Israel over the years. The reality is that the peace process is stalemated because the Palestinians have not acted in good faith. I will not guarantee it, but if would be nice if the Palestinians might get the message that they need to proactively engaged in the peace process.

  37. Magua1952:

    I watched an Obama administration ex official give her take. She is Ms. Harf. She feels we were foolish to give away the embassy move to Israel without receiving something in return. By that she means we should be on the business of undermining an ally, via negotiation, although she probably thinks Israel is equally wicked as the terrorists.

    With all its problems Israel is a City of Light in the region. They have a representative government, rule of law, tolerance and a relatively wealthy and productive economy. Those who see her enemies as exact equivalents are suffering from poor judgment skills.

  38. mckyj57:

    We get the authenticity of doing something we have been promising to do since 1995. We get to show the Arabs that they no longer can play this game.

    To be truthful, this is enabled by the Obama administration supporting the Iranians and making them stronger. The Saudis and emirates now see Israel as a much-needed ally against the Persians. They are way more valuable than the "Palestinians". As with most of the obtuse things Obama did in his presidency, it came back to bite him and his putative beneficiaries in the ass.

  39. Aunty Fah-Fah:

    Someone’s gonna take a knee.

  40. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    Speaking of promises, recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol was the explicit campaign promise of not only Trump, but almost candidate for President.

  41. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    Magua1952, Valid points. I have not seen much fruit from treating as equivalents those entities who do not negotiate in good faith, who are untrustworthy, who smirk at the idea of the rule of law.

  42. The_Big_W:

    That Ms. Harf thinks we needed to get something from Israel for this shows which side of the debate she is actually on.

  43. bruceok:

    Agree completely: Trump did the right thing. Counter-intuitive.

  44. bruceok:

    Agree completely.

  45. bruceok:

    I assume Reagan's "tear down this wall" was low-cost (his speech writers were salaried; overhead costs did not change); and, very, very symbolic. Reagan himself, nor the United States, actually paid any contractor tear down the wall.

  46. Magua1952:

    No question Marie Harf believes Israel should pay a price for the plight of Palestinians. This is a reflexive opinion of most in the State Department, most Europeans and much of the media. It seems it may be the opinion of Coyote, if I have understood that curious chart (It reminds me of the stuff found in sociology texts). No one explains why they take this position on Israel. I don't know if they thought it through or just absorbed it in school. Everybody just knows.

  47. AtlantaDude:

    Trump is a negotiator. I suspect that this announcement is simply setting the stage for the Saudi's to "convince" Israel not to move its embassy, in exchange for closer military cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia - i.e. something they both already want to combat the Iranians, while giving the Saudis cover with the rest of the Arabs

  48. buanadha:

    Exactly, this costs nothing other than dealing with the complaints of groups who were going to complain anyways. Never a bad things to show blunt honesty about something that shouldn't have ever been a consideration to lie about

  49. Rondo:

    Prof. Eugene Kontorovich spoke in the hearing in congress discussing the benefits and challenges of relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem

  50. Magua1952:

    I have read explanations by those who prefer to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv. They make the point that we don't have an embassy in Taiwan. We have offices that serve in every practical manner as an embassy. There is however no sign on the door that reads "Embassy of the US". There is no ambassador, only a Charge d' Affaires. He does everything an ambassador would do. In Jerusalem we have several diplomatic offices that deal with the business of state but no embassy sign on door. The rationale for both of these cases is that business of state can continue while the intractable questions of sovereignty and embassy location is put off into future lifetimes.

    In the case of Taiwan we are dealing with a super power, China, which could be militarily formidable. In Palestine we are dealing with an organization that isn't even a state and certainly not dangerous to the U.S. We have had ambassadors in Tel Aviv so there is no question about our recognition of the state of Israel. There is a question on the state of Taiwan according to our previous agreements with the Chinese. The Israelis get to decide where their capitol is located. They could have it at the Vatican or in Oslo if they choose. Wherever they declare their capitol it seems, to me, we should locate our embassy. It would be absurd if foreign governments refused to locate embassies in Washington DC but instead chose Cleveland. By doing this they implicitly deny the sovereignty of the United States. Israel is not an enemy of the United States.