CLOSE

There’s a reason the U.S. Embassy in Israel has been located in Tel Aviv for decades. Here’s why moving it to Jerusalem is raising concerns across the Middle East and beyond.
USA TODAY

Groups in metro Detroit representing opposing views on recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital closely watched President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday, seeing it both as “recognizing reality” and “deeply disturbing.”

“This is a very touchy subject,” said Rula Aoun, director of the Arab-American Civil Rights League in Dearborn. “For some people, this is regarded as a significant blow because Jerusalem is supposed to be recognized as a neutral region because it is religiously and historically unique and special.”

But to Rabbi Michael Cohen of Young Israel of Oak Park, the announcement was overdue.

“We are very happy,” he said. “It has taken a long time. We have the appreciation for the president for taking this step, which was promised by Barack Obama, promised by George Bush, promised by President Clinton and, now, finally acted upon by Donald Trump.”

Jerusalem, he said, has been “our capital for more than 3,000 years.”

Read more: 

David Kurzmann, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC in Bloomfield Hills, said the group supports Trump’s decision.

“Today’s announcement is recognition of the simple truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he said. “It is inexplicable that countries throughout the world have failed to acknowledge this reality.”

Trump, who said that “old challenges require new approaches,” emphasized that he was fulfilling a campaign promise.

The U.S., he said, would continue to seek a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, and he added that he intended to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The status of Jerusalem, however, is in dispute.

Israel considers Jerusalem as its undivided capital; while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Until now, the United States — and every other country — had adopted a neutral position and located their embassies in Tel Aviv. 

Within hours, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, released a statement calling Trump’s decision “deeply disturbing,” saying that “it undercuts continuing efforts toward peace.”

“The final status of Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations between the two parties as part of a resolution to the conflict, as has been U.S. policy since 1967,” she said. “This action raises tensions in an already restive region, placing Americans stationed in the Middle East at risk while increasing the chance of a wider regional conflict.”

Israel had braced for violence in advance of the official announcement.

Al Jazeera, a Qatar-funded Middle East news organization, reported Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza had called for three “days of rage.” There were demonstrations, but few reports of violence late Wednesday.

In metro Detroit, leaders said that while they feared problems overseas, they did not anticipate violence here — and prayed for Middle East peace.

“We hold out hope things will not escalate into violence and diplomacy will continue,” said Kasse Allie, executive administrator of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. “We hope the United States encourages the peace process to move forward.”

Kurzmann added that metro Detroit includes residents who are emotionally connected to Israel and the Palestinians. 

“There’s no doubt this is something on our hearts and minds,” he said. “But, what unifies both groups is the hope for calm and peace. The hope is this moment, which is not one that everyone agrees, is not used by extremists to create chaos.” 

Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or fwitsil@freepress.com. USA TODAY contributed to this report.

Read or Share this story: http://on.freep.com/2Bepi8N