The United States decision on December 6, 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer the American embassy there from Tel Aviv was one of the more momentous acts of diplomacy ever undertaken by a U.S. administration in Middle Eastern affairs. So much so that nobody believed President Donald Trump would actually do it, until he did.
When he did, most Israelis and most pro-Israel Americans approved or were positively delighted. By contrast, the American political class, Republicans and Democrats alike, was stunned—even though the president had merely fulfilled a legislative mandate, the Jerusalem Embassy Act, that had been passed near unanimously by both houses of Congress during the presidency of Bill Clinton 22 years earlier in 1995, only to be repeatedly deferred by successive White Houses for over two decades. Veteran Near East Arabists in the Department of State, for their part, put on a stern face and obeyed.
Michel Gurfinkiel is the Founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a Ginsburg-Ingerman Fellow at Middle East Forum, and editor emeritus of Valeurs Actuelles.