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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

There was a buzz in pro-Israel circles yesterday when the graphic displayed by the White House media before remarks by Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu noted that the event was to be in "Jerusalem, Israel:"



Adam Kredo in the Free Beacon called this a "major policy shift:"

The Trump administration declared the president is in "Jerusalem, Israel," on Monday for a series of meetings with Israeli officials, a proclamation that breaks with years of American policy refraining from stating that the city of Jerusalem is part of Israel.

Senior Trump administration officials had ignited a wave of controversy over the past several weeks when discussing Jerusalem, with some top officials refusing to say that the ancient city is part of Israel.

Decades of U.S. policy has refrained from formally labeling Jerusalem as part of Israel due to concerns this could negatively impact the Middle East peace process, in which Palestinian leaders have staked a claim to the city as their future capital.
The White House under the Obama administration famously erased any mention of "Jerusalem, Israel" from its website. But this wasn't a decades-long policy. It happened quite specifically in 2011.



Before that, the White House routinely referred to Jerusalem as being in Israel, in every administration, Democrat and Republican.

So while this normalizing of language is welcome, it is hardly a tectonic shift in position for informal White House communications. The Obama administration was the anomaly, not the Trump administration.

Far more important was the fact that Trump's visit to the Old City specifically barred any Israeli official from accompanying him.

In a bid to keep the tour free of political undertones, US officials reportedly rejected a request for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join the visit, saying it would be “a private visit” by the president and that he would go on his own.
Last week, the White House confirmed that Trump would not be accompanied by any Israeli officials when he visits the holy site.

Israel was good enough to provide unprecedented security for the President in the Old City, but not good enough to be seen with him at the most iconic symbol of Judaism.

In this case, actions from the President speak louder than the posted words from an anonymous, low-level graphic designer.

And Trump's refusal to clearly say that Jerusalem is in Israel while he is there shows that he has swallowed the advice of his cabinet that it is too controversial to mention.

The US policy towards Jerusalem has always been schizophrenic, and nothing has changed.



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