While expressing enthusiastic praise for the president of the United States, an Israeli soccer team renamed itself after Donald Trump after the Trump administration announced that it would open an American embassy in Jerusalem. The team, which used to go by "Beitar Jerusalem," will now boast Trump's name as "Beitar Trump Jerusalem," according to a post made by the group on Facebook.
Originally written in Hebrew, the English translation for the soccer team's praise-heavy Facebook message said, "For 70 years Jerusalem has been awaiting international recognition, until President Donald Trump, in a courageous move, recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel. President Trump has shown courage, and true love of the Israeli people and their capital, and these days other countries are following his lead in giving Jerusalem its rightful status."
The statement went on, "The chairmen of the club, the owner Eli Tabib, and the executive manager Eli Ohana have decided to add to the club's title the name of the American President who made history, and from now on will be called Beitar Trump Jerusalem." The group shared the message on Facebook and Twitter, including an image with Trump's photo imposed between the Israeli and American flags.
In December, Trump officially announced that he recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and added, "I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement."
The president said that he was delivering on the Jerusalem Embassy Act, a 1995 law which mandated that America move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unless the president waived it off in the name of national security.
But the president's decision has been met with apprehension from some observers, especially over potential backlash from Palestinians. The opening of the new American embassy is particularly contentious as it falls only a day before the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba" in Arabic or the "Catastrophe," which commemorates the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.
On Monday, Palestinians led protests in Gaza against the U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem — and reportedly faced deadly aggression from Israeli security forces, according to Reuters. But the Palestinian demonstrators seem undeterred.
A protester named Ahmad Abu Artema told Al Jazeera on Monday that the demonstration is to "send a message the Palestinian people have not and will not adapt to 70 years of being refugees, estrangement, and difficult conditions."
Prior to making airwaves for rebranding its official name in honor of Trump, Times of Israel reported that "Beitar Trump Jerusalem" garnered controversy for never having employed an Arab Muslim player in its ranks. In 2013, however, the football team signed on two Chechen Muslims by the names of Gabriel Kadiev and Zaur Sadaev. The decision sparked protests among some fans, according to Reuters.
With the Trump administration officially opening a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, some security experts caution against regional instability. Ex-CIA officer and current director of Brookings Institution's "Intelligence Project," Bruce Riedel told CNN that Trump is "only a few days away from throwing another can of gasoline on the fire by moving the embassy to Jerusalem. It's very dangerous."
In spite of concern shown by security analysts and opposition expressed by Palestinians, it seems like some Israelis — like the management at "Beitar Trump Jerusalem" — love the American president for his decision. For now, however, it is unclear whether this enthusiastic renaming is a temporary or permanent measure.