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What Do We Learn from the U.S. Embassy’s Move to Jerusalem?

In November 1995, Congress passed a law known as the Jerusalem Embassy Act. In addition to recognizing that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, the law required the U.S. to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. However, if the president believed that the relocation would pose a threat to American security interests, he could suspend implementation of the law by signing a waiver every six months. This past December, President Trump refrained from signing the waiver, thus allowing for the U.S. Embassy to relocate to Jerusalem. While the move was greeted with fanfare by Israeli and American officials at the U.S. Embassy’s dedication ceremony on May 14, Palestinians staged protests along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, as they believed the move signified that the U.S. pledged its full support to Israel and was no longer interested in creating a lasting peace deal. In the U.S., opinions remain widely divided, with some Americans believing that Trump’s decision will not bring peace to the Middle East, but will instead lead to an increase of violence in that region. Others believe that Trump was right to move the U.S. Embassy, as an embassy should be located in a nation’s capital, and the embassy’s new location will make it easier for U.S. officials to collaborate with Israelis and Palestinians.

This eLesson will provide students with an opportunity to acquire a more thorough understanding of the controversy that has erupted as a result of the U.S. Embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem. It will encourage them to consider both sides of the debate and draw their own conclusions about the relocation. It will also ask students to consider the roles that the president and Congress have played in mediating international disputes, and it will prompt students to consider the parallels between current events and prior historical episodes.


  • Students will read editorials that express opposing viewpoints on the issue of the U.S. Embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem.
  • Students will summarize the arguments expressed in the editorials and decide if they support or disagree with those arguments.
  • Students will learn about the roles that the president and Congress have played in negotiating international conflicts.
  • Students will consider how this current situation compares with prior instances in which the president and Congress have sought to mediate international disputes.


Activity 1:

  1. Have students read Handout A: US Embassy opening in Jerusalem is nail in coffin of peace process
  2. Have students read Handout B: The Blood Isn’t on Trump’s Hands
  3. For each reading, have students answer the following discussion questions:
    • What is the primary argument made by the writer?
    • Do you agree or disagree with that argument?
    • What evidence does the writer use to support his argument?
    • Do you find any flaws in the writer’s argument?
    • Having read these essays, do you agree with President Trump’s assertion that the embassy’s relocation will enable the U.S. to broker a lasting peace deal, or do you think that the relocation will prevent the U.S. from being able to negotiate such a deal?
    • Do you believe that the situation is far more complicated than what the writers have asserted and that their essays leave out important issues that are worth our discussion?
    • As nearly 23 years have passed since Congress approved the Jerusalem Embassy Act, is it risky for the act to take effect, considering the current tensions that exist in the Middle East?
  4. As a class, review the responses to the discussion questions.

Activity 2:

  1. Have students read Handout C: International Relations and the Constitutional Separation of Powers
  2. Upon completing the reading, discuss the following questions as a group
    • How did Washington, Lincoln, Wilson, and Reagan take on the role of “chief diplomat” in their respective situations?
    • How did the system of checks and balances come into play in these various situations?
    • Do you see parallels between any of the actions taken by the presidents and President Trump’s recent decision to relocate the embassy?
    • Do you see parallels between any of the actions taken by Congress and Congress’s passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995?
    • Do you believe it is appropriate to use the term “chief diplomat” when describing the role that the president plays in managing international conflicts?