(RNS) — President Trump has announced the United States will "finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel."
That declaration Wednesday (Dec. 6) followed days of speculation and concern from many that such a move could lead to violence and quash hopes for a peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians.
Some religious leaders and activists echoed that concern, as others welcomed the news — notably Trump's evangelical Christian supporters, who had long lobbied for the change.
Here is a sampling of their reactions, some of which have been edited for length:
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism
"President Trump’s ill-timed, but expected, announcement affirms what the Reform Jewish Movement has long held: that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Yet while we share the President’s belief that the U.S. Embassy should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we cannot support his decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process. Additionally, any relocation of the American Embassy to West Jerusalem should be conceived and executed in the broader context reflecting Jerusalem’s status as a city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike."[ad number="1"]
Anti-Defamation League Chair Marvin D. Nathan and CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt
"At a time when international organizations and other detractors delegitimize the Jewish state and deny any Jewish connection to the holy city, this is a significant step that acknowledges reality: Jerusalem is the political capital of the country and has been the spiritual heart of the Jewish people for millennia. We welcome President Trump’s announcement that the United States – almost 70 years after the founding of the State of Israel – will begin the process to relocate its embassy consistent with the longstanding bipartisan consensus as enshrined in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. And yet this important and long overdue step should not preclude the imperative of peace negotiations – including discussions over the final status of Jerusalem."
Patriarchs and heads of local churches in Jerusalem
A letter written earlier this week was sent to Trump from the patriarchs of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Orthodox patriarchates and the archbishops of the Latin, Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox patriarchates, among other church leaders:
"Mr. President, we have been following, with concern, the reports about the possibility of changing how the United States understands and deals with the status of Jerusalem. We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division. We ask from you Mr. President to help us all walk towards more love and a definitive peace, which cannot be reached without Jerusalem being for all. Our solemn advice and plea is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm."[ad number="2"]
Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas
"Jerusalem is and should be recognized as the capital of Israel. It is David’s capital, the site of the First and Second Temples, the focus of the historians’ accounts, the Psalmists’ songs and the prophets’ visions. It is the place where Jesus, a Jew himself, was crucified and where he was resurrected. It is the place where he will set foot again on earth at his second coming. President Donald J. Trump has demonstrated true leadership today by recognizing Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel. President Trump is a modern-day profile in courage, accomplishing what no other president has been willing to do."
Paula White, senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center
"Promise made. Promise kept. Once again, President Trump has shown the world what I have always known — he is a leader who is willing to do what is right however loud the voices are of the skeptics and the critics. Evangelicals are ecstatic, for Israel is to us a sacred place and the Jewish people are our dearest friends."
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine
"Of course Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. But it is also the capital of the State of Palestine, currently occupied by the Israeli army and unable to exercise its sovereignty in the Arab parts of Jerusalem that will some day be an integral part of the Palestinian state. To ignore this fact, and instead play to the most reactionary element of the Israeli people and of the Jewish people around the world is to not only be ignorant and arrogant, but also terribly destructive to the possibility of the U.S. playing a constructive role in bringing an end to the Israeli/Palestinian struggle."
Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR National
In a statement released ahead of the president’s expected announcement on Jerusalem, Awad said:
“By overturning a decades-long policy adopted by administrations of both parties, President Trump is casting aside America’s role as a mediator in the Middle East conflict, harming our Muslim allies and our nation’s strategic foreign policy interests, offending the religious sensibilities of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, and empowering political and religious extremists of all stripes at home and abroad. This dangerous, counterproductive and self-serving move should be rejected by every American who looks forward to a just and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council
"Today is a major milestone in America's historic relationship with Israel. Under the bold and courageous leadership of President Trump, America is finally putting American interests and the interests of our key allies first. America's foreign policy, as it pertains to Israel, is coming into alignment with this biblical truth: Jerusalem is the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state."[ad number="3"]
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
"On behalf of The Fellowship’s millions of Evangelical Christian supporters around the world, I applaud the U.S. administration's decision today to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. It is a bold, courageous move that is long overdue, and is especially significant coming from Israel’s closest ally. Both Jews and Christians around the world have prayed for this day, which rights a historic wrong by affirming to the world that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people."
Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
"I am deeply disturbed to learn of the Trump administration’s plans to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel away from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The ELCA has long held the view that a negotiated, final status agreement, including a 'shared Jerusalem,' must be reached without unilateral actions by any party that would prejudice the outcome of negotiations. ... To proceed with this plan will only further isolate our nation from the global movement for a just peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike in the region and our church’s policy that seeks an end to the occupation, an end to terrorism and violence, and, ultimately, the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state."
Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition
“We are so grateful for President Trump’s pro-Israel stance and his bold leadership. Like the President, we remain fully committed to seeing the U.S. embassy moved to Jerusalem, the seat of the Israeli government, as soon as possible. To do otherwise will only give false encouragement to Israel’s enemies, many of whom still refuse to acknowledge its existence or maintain diplomatic relations with its government."
Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace
"For seventy years, the US has given Israel tacit approval to steal Palestinian land, build illegal Jewish settlements, and deny Palestinians in East Jerusalem and elsewhere their rights. The Trump-Netanyahu alliance takes these ongoing policies to the next level and is reckless, irresponsible and endangers the lives of Palestinians and Israelis."
Speaking after his weekly general audience on Wednesday, the pope said his "thoughts go to Jerusalem" and urged respect for the city's "status quo."
"I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world," he said, "and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts."
Nathan J. Diament, director of public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
"We believe this announcement by President Trump is not only the right thing to do with regard to Jerusalem, it is the right thing to do for those who hope for a long term arrangement for peace and security in the region. The President’s policy makes clear that the path forward is one of negotiation between the parties, not counterproductive steps nor stalemate."