On April 23, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed an historic resolution declaring that Alabama not only celebrates last year’s move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but that Alabama takes the unprecedented step of recognizing Jerusalem “as the eternal undivided capital of Israel.”
In a statement, the Alabama-Israel Task Force noted that while Israel recognizes Jerusalem as its “eternal undivided capital, and many of Israel’s closest friends and allies refer to Jerusalem often in the same way, this is the first formal recognition that does so.”
The resolution builds on Alabama’s history of being in the forefront of supporting Israel. In 1943, the Alabama Legislature was the first U.S. body calling for the establishment of a Jewish state, five years before Israel’s independence.
The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 3 by Sens. Arthur Orr and Jabo Waggoner, and adopted that day on a voice vote. Orr also spearheaded the anti-BDS bill passed by the Legislature in 2016.
On April 16, the resolution was reported from the Rules Committee, and Rep. Mike Jones called for adoption, which was done on a voice vote. Rep. Victor Gaston also led the House effort.
John Buhler, AITF co-chair, said the timing was “especially meaningful,” as the resolution passed just before Passover and Easter, and it was signed by the governor during the intermediate days of Passover. It is also two weeks before Israel Independence Day and the first anniversary of the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem.
Buhler said the Alabama effort started with the embassy move last May, then after a resolution in neighboring Florida. In January, the chief financial officer of Florida, Jimmy Patronis, suggested to Governor Ron DeSantis and other state officials that Florida follow the president’s lead, resulting in a January resolution from the governor and the state cabinet declaring Florida’s recognition of Jerusalem as “the capital of the State of Israel,” encouraging “all Floridians to stand by the Israeli people and honor our lifelong friendship.”
Orr heard about Florida’s resolution on the radio, and contacted Buhler to discuss Alabama going a step further and adding the terms “eternal” and “undivided” to an Alabama recognition.
Buhler said those terms echo the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the U.S. embassy dedication. “Eternal” notes the Biblical significance of Jerusalem, and “undivided” expresses the idea that the city should never be divided again.
The name Jerusalem itself connotes unity, as that is a meaning of the term “shalem” in Hebrew — wholeness or completeness.
The resolution states that Jerusalem has never been the capital of any other sovereign nation, until the establishment of Israel in 1948. In 1949, the city was divided when Jordan took the eastern part of the city, including the Old City and all of its holy sites, which were then made inaccessible to Jews. Israel established the western part of Jerusalem as its capital, with the national government functions taking place there.
After reunification in the 1967 Six Day War, the resolution states, “the barriers dividing the city were demolished, the gates of the Old City were opened to people of all faiths, and East Jerusalem was reunified with West Jerusalem, making whole again the nation’s historic capital.”
Because of the political situation with the Arab nations claiming Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, almost the entire world refused to accept even pre-1967 western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and considered Tel Aviv to be Israel’s capital. It is the only instance where a sovereign nation’s declared capital has not been accepted by other countries.
In 1995, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan act to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there. A provision allowed the president to postpone the move for six months at a time due to strategic considerations, and that was done while there was optimism that the Palestinians were willing to negotiate a peace deal.
On Dec. 6, 2017, the Trump administration announced that the waiver would not be renewed, and the embassy would be moved on May 14, 2018, Israel’s 70th anniversary.
The Alabama resolution concludes that “we do unequivocally recognize Jerusalem as the eternal undivided capital of Israel, and do fully affirm and celebrate the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.”
Copies of the resolution are being sent not only to Israeli authorities, the president and Alabama’s Congressional delegation, but also to all other U.S. governors. Buhler said the resolution was written to be easily adapted by other states.
Buhler said some will celebrate the historic resolution while others may belittle or mock it. Regardless, he said, “may the testimony from Alabama burn brightly, and Israel know she is neither isolated or alone.”