US President Donald Trump’s formal, public recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has by and large been universally condemned, but his announcement went down well with his core supporters.
The President’s white evangelical fan base was delighted.”President Trump has – yet again – demonstrated to his evangelical supporters that he will do what he says he will do,” said pastor Johnnie Moore, a member of a group of evangelical advisers to Mr Trump, who had been urging him to take the decision.
Evangelicals number about 94 million in the US and are wooed as a solid vote bloc. Eighty-one per cent of white evangelicals who voted last November cast their ballots for Mr Trump. A clincher for the decision for many was Mr Trump’s campaign promise to shift the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
At Mr Trump’s 100-day mark in office in April, a Pew Research Centre survey found that three-quarters of white evangelicals approved of his performance as President. That rating may well rise, analysts say, on the back of the Jerusalem decision.
Former Arkansas governor and former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee, whose daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders is White House press secretary, tweeted: “Proud of @realDonaldTrump for embassy move to Jerusalem Capitol (sic) of Jewish people since time of King David and never Capitol (sic) for any other nation. EVER. @POTUS shows courage and clarity.”
Jewish groups, though wary that Mr Trump has emboldened white supremacists, were more cautious in their response. In a joint statement, the Anti-Defamation League’s national chair, Mr Marvin Nathan, and CEO, Mr Jonathan Greenblatt, said “this important and long overdue step should not preclude the imperative of peace negotiations – including discussions over the final status of Jerusalem”.
The President also got support on Capitol Hill from Republicans and some Democrats. Republican Senator Marco Rubio called the announcement “an important step in the right direction”, while New York congressman Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it “helps correct a decades-long indignity”.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, however, cautioned that Mr Trump’s move was premature and warned of “mass protests”.
“This announcement will inflame Muslims all over the world and historians will point to it as the catalyst for another deadly wave of religious violence in the Middle East,” Mr Uzair Younus, an analyst at the consultancy Albright Stonebridge Group, told The Straits Times.
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