Yesterday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump declared in writing his intention to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (He’s said this before in a debate, though he also waivered before and said that he’d need to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before making a commitment, which he did earlier Sunday.) Trump has now officially joined a long line of presidential candidates who’ve promised the same, some of whom actually became president and could have made it happen. Of course, none actually have, forcing many Israel-supporters to doubt the validity of Trump’s promise.
You don’t have to look hard to find voices suspicious of an embassy move. “I think the pro-Israel constituency has become totally cynical about this by now,” wrote Glenn Kessler. “Don’t hold your breath” wrote Rabbi Yonah Bookstein. And both of them were writing in 2012, when Mitt Romney made this campaign promise in July of that year. You can only imagine how suspicious critics are now, with a candidate, who the ADL has openly objected to and who waited until the fall to say this.
The strangest thing is that, unlike building a border wall or revamping social security, this is a campaign promise that’d be easy to achieve. In fact, the president wouldn’t even have to do anything to keep the promise. That’s because the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 already ordered that the embassy be moved to Jerusalem by 1999, and the only reason that hasn’t happened is active opposition from every sitting president since, who’ve all made Presidential Determinations every six months delaying the move because of “national security interests.”
Both Democrats and Republicans support moving the embassy to Jerusalem during campaigns. George W. Bush promised to enforce the Embassy Act after Bill Clinton failed to as president, but then he didn’t. The same thing happened with Barack Obama. We’ll never know if the failed candidates like Romney and John McCain, who also promised a move, would have actually gone through with it, but, to be frank, there’s no reason to believe that they would have. Here’s how Aaron Keyak put it in 2008 about McCain: “There is nothing inherently wrong with [McCain’s commitment], except that McCain has not explained how he will deliver on his promise where Bush failed.”
Trump has similarly failed to explain why his administration will be different from all the others. The press, for its part, has started to lose interest in this promise that’s destined for failure. The Associate Press, in covering Trump’s meeting with Netanyahu, didn’t even mention Trump’s new promise.
Perhaps Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton represents the way forward. She publicly supported moving the embassy to Israel in the 1990s while her husband was delaying the move, but she’s much quieter on the issue now.
Once they’re no longer being believed, most boys stop crying wolf. At this point, Trump risks not sounding like that boy but the broken record of his cry.