Donald Trump made history on Wednesday, becoming the first American president to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
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He said his decision was "nothing more or less than a recognition of reality" and that the move should not be interpreted as a departure from the U.S. stance of working toward a peaceful "two-state solution" to the age-old Arab-Israeli conflict.
In 1995, Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize that city as Israel’s capital.
"This Act passed Congress by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, and was reaffirmed by a unanimous vote of the Senate only six months ago," Trump said in remarks to the nation from the White House Wednesday afternoon.
But the law contained a clause allowing the president to sign a "waiver" that would delay its implementation. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama signed the waiver every six months, refusing to let the law passed by Congress go into effect.
Not Trump, although he signed the waiver the first time he was presented with it.
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Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital was one of the promises he made to voters in 2016, and it's now another promise he can cross off his list.
Rabbi Tuly Weisz of Jerusalem-based Israel 365, which publishes Breaking Israel News, said Trump’s announcement is "recognition of the eternal connection between the Land, the People, and the God of Israel."
"We are so appreciative to God that President Donald Trump took the courageous step of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We know that Trump’s declaration was largely made possible by the encouragement and support of so many American Christian Zionists," Weisz said in an emailed statement to WND. "They provided the political backing to make this historic move and for that, the Jewish people should be thankful.
"The Bible states that Jerusalem is the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8). Now, finally, the Holy City will once again become a city of righteousness and justice, as the Hebrew prophets who lived in Jerusalem declared so long ago.
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"We will continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem."
The Czech Republic became the first nation to follow Trump and announce it will also recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The question still remains as to when the U.S. Embassy will actually be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That's a process that could take years, and ABC News was quick to point out right after Trump's 1 p.m. announcement that the president stopped short of christening a new embassy in Jerusalem. He could have done that by simply reflagging an existing U.S. consulate in Jerusalem as the new U.S. Embassy, but he didn't.
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Perhaps taking the more gradual route was a concession made in hopes of tempering the expected backlash of rioting Palestinian Muslims, who have already promised three "days of rage" in East Jerusalem and Gaza.
“Jerusalem is not just the heart of three great religions, but it is now also the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world," Trump said. "Over the past seven decades, the Israeli people have built a country where Jews, Muslims, Christians, and people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience and beliefs."
While Democrats largely blasted the decision, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, advised Trump to go ahead and make the gutsy move.
Schumer told the Weekly Standard Tuesday that he recommended Trump declare Jerusalem the “undivided” capital of Israel.
Hamas: Decision will 'open the gates of hell'
AFP reported through Twitter that Hamas released a statement saying Trump's decision would "open the gates of hell."
"At last, an American President who does not kowtow to this savagery," said Robert Spencer on his blog at Jihad Watch.
'A bull in a china shop'?
Stephen Strang, author of "God and Donald Trump," said the announcement is the latest evidence giving credence to the belief by many ministry leaders that God brought Trump to office for such a time as this.
"It may well be, as (Michele) Bachmann and certain prophetic voices have suggested, that Trump was sent by God as a bull in a china shop to break up the globalist agenda and interrupt the left’s campaign to remake America in their own image," Strang said. "A man with a milder, gentler, less aggressive personality could never hope to take on the forces within the political establishment and prosper, which explains why Donald J. Trump was the perfect choice for this hour."
Mark Christian, a former Islamic imam who converted to Christianity and moved to the U.S. from his native Egypt in 2005, said the decision to move the embassy should have been made years ago but for the weak leadership of the previous three presidents.
"Today is a monumental day for America and the rest of the world. I hear a lot of complaining from the left, but if moving the USA embassy to Jerusalem will trigger a global Muslim outrage (despite their race, country of origin, religious adherence, denomination or sect affiliation), then that proves without any doubt that Islam is not about religion but a political movement that is adamant and relentless to push its ideology on all other religions and all other nations seeking domination even over historical facts," Dr. Christian said.
"In other words, nothing will change except that they will keep doing what they have always done, which is anything they can do to destroy Israel and spread their control over the rest of the world," he added.
"Why haven't we done this before? The Clinton's administration through Hillary was influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood and their personal relationship with Yasser Arafat and the PLO. That is the reason the American embassy is not in Jerusalem today, despite the Congress voting yes on moving it to Jerusalem in 1995."
Joseph Farah, founder of WND.com and author of “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age,” issued the following statement:
Even though I knew this announcement was coming, it was historic and exciting to watch. Frankly, after being a close observer of American-Israeli relations and a frequent visitor to Israel, I doubted I would ever see this day come, given 28 years of waffling by U.S. presidents. All I can say is, "Thank you President Trump for fulfilling a campaign promise that the previous four president never kept."
Trump said his administration remains "deeply committed" to brokering a lasting peace deal acceptable to both sides, with borders and other sticky issues to be worked out by the two parties.
"I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement," he said.
"There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement," Trump added. "But we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation."
He said it was time for younger, more moderate voices to be heard.
"It's time to respond to differences with reasoned debate, not bloodshed and violence," he said.
If it happens as Trump has promised, the U.S. will be the first nation in the world to place an embassy in Jerusalem.
Mass rioting being planned for 'days of rage'
As Israelis celebrated the announcement, Palestinians planned mass riots.
"Finally, we have a president who is both a believer in the word of God, and a man who has the courage, the chutzpah to do what is right," said Joel Richardson, a U.S. Bible teacher, filmmaker and author of multiple books on the Middle East, including "The Coming Battle for Jerusalem" and "Mystery Babylon."
"Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and the city of the Great King. No doubt, many who rage against God's word will throw hissy fits," Richardson told WND. "Protests, threats and violence, however, will not stop the United States from acknowledging the truth. We will stand firm, and as a result the Lord will bless us."
Like any sovereign nation, Israel has a right to determine where its capital should be, Trump said.
"Acknowledging this as a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace," he said.
Watch video of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu thanking President Trump:
The American Family Association also reacted positively to the history-making announcement.
"The American Family Association commends President Trump for staying true to the issues most important to Christians and fulfilling his campaign promises," said AFA President Tim Wildmon. "He is correct when he says the move is a 'long overdue step' to advance peace in the Middle East.
"Generations of Christians know that Israelites are God's chosen people and that Israel's allies must never waver in their support of the nation."
According to some reports, Trump has the secret backing of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia is the burial place of Islam's prophet and home to its most holy mosque, the Great Mosque of Mecca. But Islamic leaders, especially since 1967, have also tried to make a claim on Jerusalem, citing a "night ride" by the Islam's prophet Muhammad on the back of a unicorn named Barack.
European leaders in Britain, France, Germany and Sweden all criticized the move by Trump as too risky, with British Prime Minister Theresa May saying she planned to talk to the U.S. president about the situation. The U.S. establishment media also castigated Trump's decision. ABC News, which carried the 1 p.m. announcement live, filled its five minutes of analysis after the speech with uniformly negative remarks by staffers and contributors. One called it "a unilateral step that is out of step with the countries of the world." The notoriously anti-Israel Washington Post ran with a headline that quoted the Swedish foreign minister calling Trump's decision "catastrophic."
The denouncements come on the heels of the United Nations passing six resolutions condemning Israel on Dec. 1, which the U.N. declared "Palestine Day."
But Richardson said all of the predictions of doom remain to be seen.
"Muslims must recognize that the reason the Lord chose Jerusalem to be the city from where Jesus, the Jewish King, would rule the world is because he loves all the peoples of the world," he said. "When Israel prospers, all the world prospers. For now, we stand with the state of Israel. We long, however, for the King to return and restore the Kingdom of Israel. Then, as the Scriptures state, 'the knowledge of God will cover the Earth, as the waters cover the sea."
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said President Trump’'s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and the announcement to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem recognizes reality.
"This is a bold and welcomed move by President Trump – a move that recognizes the facts as they are – that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state of Israel," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, which has an office in Israel.
"By officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the United States sends a powerful message to the world – the U.S. remains committed to pursuing and achieving peace in the Middle East. Further, the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem not only reflects the correct course of action, but also complies with both U.S. and international law."
Another U.S.-based group that has been lobbying for the White House to move the embassy is Liberty Counsel, led by Mat Staver
"President Trump's affirmation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel represents a significant and long-overdue shift in U.S. policy," said Staver, who is also president of Christians in Defense of Israel and founder-chairman of Covenant Journey.
"In every country worldwide, the U.S. respects the choice of the nation state and locates its embassy in the capital," Staver said. "However, the embassy in Israel is in Tel Aviv, despite the fact that Israel designates Jerusalem as its capital and despite the fact that Congress voted to move the embassy to Jerusalem."
He pointed out that the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 passed the Senate by 93-5 and the House by 374-37 to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem by requiring the withholding of State Department funds if was not moved.