The time has come for the United States to correct a historical wrong and move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro told the 111th annual meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta on Wednesday, June 7.
The meeting at Ahavath Achim Synagogue occurred on the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification during the Six-Day War and six days after President Donald Trump followed the example of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama in signing a six-month waiver to a U.S. law requiring the embassy’s move.
“I think the waiver has outlived its usefulness, and it’s time to move the embassy to Jerusalem to demonstrate we do not accept the denial of Jewish ties to Jerusalem,” Shapiro said.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed in 1995, called for moving the embassy by May 31, 1999. Shapiro served as ambassador in Israel for the last 5½ years of the Obama administration without publicly calling for the move.
He said he understands why Trump used the national security waiver despite promising during the campaign to move the embassy: The feat must be accomplished in a smart and strategic way to advance the goal of a two-state solution that offers peace and security to Israelis and Palestinians.
Shapiro said the embassy should be placed on the western side of the Green Line in Jerusalem, leaving the status of the eastern side of the city, including the holy sites in the Old City and the possibility of a Palestinian capital, for negotiations.
Shapiro said Trump’s use of the waiver provides him six months to talk with the Palestinians, Jordanians and other Arabs to address concerns about the implications of the move and reduce the likelihood of a violent response.
“Can we guarantee that there will not be protests and violence? No,” he said. “However, should we ever step back from what we are supposed to do in lieu of threats or violence? No.”
Shapiro, who advised Obama during his first presidential campaign before joining the administration as a National Security Council aide, also defended the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the U.S. abstention at the end of December on U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlements.
Shapiro’s question-and-answer session with Michael Rosenzweig wrapped up an annual meeting that marked the midpoint in Joel Mark’s two-year term as chairman of the board and the approval of a resolution reducing the size of the board from 140 to no more than 30 trustees.
It was also the first annual meeting since Eric Robbins became president and CEO on Aug. 1 last year.
“We sought to invigorate Jewish life in Atlanta and have helped build a vibrant community; however, there’s still much to do in the road ahead,” Robbins said.
Among future endeavors, Federation plans to establish Our Front Porch, an effort to understand the preferred direction of the community and its priorities, and intends to invite two young emissaries from Israel in August under the Jewish Agency’s Shinshinim program, which aims to encourage a sense of Israel in day schools, supplemental synagogue religious schools and summer camps.
A Federation mission trip to Israel in January will gather lay leaders from Jewish organizations across Atlanta to build relationships, develop the community’s vison, and strengthen understanding and connections to Israel.