Current News



Who really wants Trump to recognize Jerusalem? His evangelical supporters at home

Noah Bierman, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump summed up a central reason for declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel -- one of the most consequential and globally risky decisions of his presidency -- in a single statement.

"While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver," he said from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Wednesday. "Today, I am delivering."

The decision may have alarmed prime ministers, presidents, kings and their subjects around the world. But it fit neatly into Trump's political calculus and personal view of his mandate.

In his view, he is the president who pushes through toward "historic" change while those around him urge equivocation. He is the president who bluntly scorns the judgment of elites. And he is the president who tallies "promises kept."

Especially important are promises to the voters Trump sees as his base, who include a strong majority of evangelical Christians.

"You can see it in his face," said Robert Nicholson, executive director of The Philos Project, a conservative-leaning group that advocates for Christian involvement in the Middle East and has not weighed in on the Jerusalem question. "His eyes kind of light up when this issue comes up."


The decision also holds important political implications for Vice President Mike Pence, the only administration official in camera view as Trump delivered his announcement that the United States would not only recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but would begin steps toward moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Pence, whose political ambitions have not ended with his ascension to the vice presidency, according to many who know him, stood military straight, gazing reverently toward the president. He plans a trip to Israel later this month.

Polls suggest the new policy will not be broadly popular. A Brookings Institution survey released on Friday found only 31 percent of Americans support moving the embassy. A large majority of American Jews, who lean to the left, oppose the idea, according to repeated polls in recent years.

But those who support the idea are passionate and influential. That includes a large number of evangelical Christians, as well as some prominent conservative Jews, notably Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate who is one of the most important donors in the Republican Party.


swipe to next page


blog comments powered by Disqus