Whether to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has long been a subject of political debate in the U.S. and abroad. It’s time now to resolve the debate by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city and relocating our embassy there on incontestably Israeli sovereign territory.
This relocation would be sensible, prudent and efficient for the United States. It would not adversely affect negotiations over Jerusalem’s final status or the broader Middle East peace process, nor would it impair our diplomatic relations among predominantly Arab and Muslim nations.
Over the years, as with many other aspects of Middle Eastern geopolitics, a near-theological view has developed here and abroad about the impact of moving the U.S. embassy. Now is the ideal time to sweep this detritus aside and initiate the long-overdue transfer.
Common sense dictates that America’s overseas diplomats should be located near the seat of government to which they are accredited, giving them proximity to political leaders and major government institutions. This also puts our diplomats near representatives of political, economic and social interests in the nations where the diplomats serve.
If the Middle East peace process is such a delicate snowflake that the U.S. embassy’s location in Israel could melt it, one has to doubt how viable it truly is.
Despite modern transportation and telecommunications capabilities, distance from the seat of government still imposes costs in time and resources, not to mention aggravation, on our diplomats in Israel. There is still no substitute for personal contact, face-to-face communications and easy accessibility – especially in times of crisis – with host-government officials and political leaders.
It’s legitimate for Congress to raise budgetary issues regarding both existing operations and the costs of a new embassy. Here, the verdict is clear. Congress staked out its position in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate.
Locating a new U.S. embassy in indisputably Israeli territory would be straightforward. Israel’s government has designated a site in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood, held in Israeli hands since the nation gained independence in 1948, for our new embassy.
Despite the overwhelming diplomatic and managerial advantages of relocating our embassy, numerous political issues have been advanced for keeping it in Tel Aviv. Some of these arguments are offered in good faith, including by those who wish Israel no harm.
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