NEW YORK, Dec. 4, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, speaking today at an AJC breakfast, called on President Trump to "go with your heart" and "recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel."
"Recognition of Jerusalem happened 3,000 years ago," said Barkat. "Every year that passes is a big miss for the U.S.," he continued, pointing out that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital could have been done "70 years ago, 50 years ago, or even half a year ago when the president instead chose to sign the waiver" on moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The mayor's visit to AJC headquarters comes amidst growing anticipation that President Trump may announce this week U.S. recognition of the city that Israel long ago deemed its capital. "I pray and hope the president will do the right thing this time," said Barkat.
Recognition of Jerusalem and moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel's capital city "will restore U.S. leadership in the region, and many other countries will follow the U.S. decision," said the mayor.
Barkat, who has been the city's mayor since 2008, addressed a standing-room-only breakfast attended by more than 150 AJC lay leaders and staff. Several European and Asian diplomats based in New York City were also in the audience.
AJC CEO David Harris, who spoke before Barkat, stressed that, for the global Jewish advocacy organization, Jerusalem has always been Israel's capital. AJC was the first American Jewish organization to open a permanent office in Jerusalem nearly 60 years ago.
"With the Prime Minister's Office, the Knesset, and nearly all government offices situated in Jerusalem, it is inexplicable that countries around the world continue to refuse to recognize Israel's capital," said Harris. "No other country is treated this way."
Addressing reports that U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital might lead to violence, Barkat stressed that "Palestinians, as we have seen, don't need a reason to spark violence."
"We will defend ourselves and never surrender to violence, especially when talking about recognizing Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish people and state of Israel," said Barkat.
In the course of his remarks, Barkat also provided an update on Jerusalem's development as a hub for hi-tech innovation, its growing tourism industry, the city's cultural renaissance, and its educational system, which has the largest student population of any Israeli city.
"Since Jerusalem was reunited 50 years ago, my strategy is to keep the city's atmosphere of friendliness and inclusiveness, so all of Jerusalem's diverse stakeholders, of every religion and background, can feel comfortable," said Barkat.
Looking ahead to a possible peace agreement with the Palestinians, Barkat emphasized that "Jerusalem cannot be divided. I prefer no deal than a bad deal."
SOURCE American Jewish Committee