Trump Recognizes Jerusalem
In his book, The Prime Ministers, Yehuda Avner tells the story of how in May of 1979, Prime Minister Menachem Begin was invited to London where he was hosted for lunch at 10 Downing St. by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. On his way into their meeting, a reporter asked him, “Are you going to ask Mrs. Thatcher for her support of the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?”
Frigidly, the prime minister answered. “No, sir—under no circumstances.”
“Why not?” asked the reporter.
Begin answered, “Because, sir, Jerusalem was a Jewish capital long before London was a British capital. When King David moved the capital of his kingdom from Hebron, where he had reigned for seven years, to Jerusalem, where he reigned for 33 years, the civilized world had never heard of London. In fact, they had never heard of Great Britain,” and he turned on his heels towards the door, where Mrs. Thatcher was waiting to greet him.
Now, after almost 70 years—with President Donald Trump’s courageous declaration last week—perhaps the world will come to appreciate what was always true—and that is, that Jerusalem was, is and always will be the Jewish capital, the center of Jewish life…Ki miTziyon teytzey Torah udvar Hashem miY’rushalayim (For from Zion will the Torah emerge and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem). As Trump said: “But today we finally acknowledge the obvious. That Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do.”
No matter what you think of President Trump, this announcement was a seismic event—a historic watershed. This is where appeasement ends. His speech signaled that at least for America, the century-long Arab attempt to destroy Israel’s legitimacy—the essence of the Middle East conflict—has failed.
Trump was careful and subtle. He did not say all of Jerusalem was Israel’s capital and he merely started the process of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. It was the balanced, strategic and principled speech of a statesman.
Palestinian leaders called for 3 days of rage in protest. Many were fearful of overwhelming violence, but the sum total seemed to be 2 Palestinian fatalities…and this week there were 4 more. This is a far cry from former Palestinian days of rage where Jews were stabbed and buses blown up. This is not to downplay the risks involved. The incendiary threats of vengeful violence should be taken seriously. But, as we’ve seen all too often, Palestinians need no excuse to try to murder Israelis.
For decades, the idea of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital served as a rare and powerful rallying cry that united the Arab world. Anne Barnard writes in the NY Times: While Arab leaders have continued to pay lip service to the Palestinian cause, it has slipped in importance, displaced by the Arab Spring uprisings, the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the threat of the Islamic State, and the contest between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional dominance. Persian Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, more concerned about their rivalry with Iran, have found their interests increasingly overlapping with those of Israel. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Saudi Arabia was informed of Trumps decision beforehand and gave Trump a wink and a nod. The surge of Arab violence over the recognition of Jerusalem never really materialized. We live in changing times.
And besides, appeasing those who threaten violence doesn’t reduce it. It actually encourages it. The refusal to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital never prevented the Palestinians from hurling rocks from the Al Aksa Mosque at Jews worshiping below, or blowing up Israeli buses, or raining rockets upon innocent people or stabbing Jews in the street.
In fact history proves the more concessions Israel offered, the more Palestinians believed that even greater violence will deliver them final victory. That’s why the Oslo peace process offer of a Palestine State led to the 2nd Intifada and that’s why the expulsion of Israeli residents from Gaza led to the all-out rocket onslaught against civilians in southern Israel.
The cause of Arab and Islamist terrorism is religious fanaticism and incitement and not the actions of its victims. The reason violence against Israel never stops is that the Palestinians know the world will respond by urging concessions upon their Israeli victims and punishing it when it refuses to stretch out its throat to the knife. And so Britain, France and Germany have predictably kowtowed to the men of violence by disapproving of Trump’s action.
It’s bizarre not to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It’s where the Kenesset—the seat of government—is situated, the official residences of its president and Prime Minister, its Supreme Court and numerous ministries.
Melanie Phillips writes in London’s The Times: But of course, recognition reflects a far deeper and broader reality—which is why it’s much more important than moving the embassy. For it makes explicit what by moving the embassy would only be implicit. This is because the Arab war against Israel is not a conflict about the division of land. It is a war of extermination based on a refusal to accept that the Jews have any right to that land. And Jerusalem is central to that refusal.
Trump was in error when he said Jerusalem was at the heart of 3 great religions. Jerusalem is not mentioned at all in the Koran. In fact, Palestinians turn their backs on Jerusalem as they pray toward Mecca. But for Jews, Jerusalem is the holy of holies. It’s mentioned in the Bible more than 660 times; Jews pray for the rebuilding of Jerusalem 3 times every day as they face Jerusalem. The Jews are the only people for whom it has ever been the capital of their national homeland.
Those who say Trump’s move makes peace less likely couldn’t be more wrong. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is the essential step without which peace can never be achieved. To Trump’s credit, he has made good on an election promise that his predecessors broke. Yes, this might undermine America’s stature as a peace broker. Yes, it’s a gamble. But it’s a better bet than 70 years of violence and terror.
Let’s not forget that only the week before, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly negated Israeli and Jewish ties to Jerusalem in 6 anti-Israel resolutions. The vote was 151 in favor and 6 against, with 9 abstentions. Despite the admirable stand of US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, the General Assembly is expected to approve another 10 anti-Israel resolutions by the end of the year.
And let’s not forget Barack Obama’s parting shot at Israel last December. He orchestrated the passing of a UN resolution that implied recognition of Palestinian rights to all parts of Jerusalem outside the 1949 armistice line. This would give the Palestinians control of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, among other places.
Dreams play a central role in our Torah readings around Chanukah. In today’s parsha Joseph successfully interprets the dreams of Pharaoh and, as a result, is appointed Prime Minister of Egypt. Last week, Joseph revealed his dreams to his family about the future which lead to his brothers’ resentment. Nevertheless, the dreams came true in this week’s parsha. Like Joseph’s dreams, declarations of reality are often resented. Joseph could’ve played it safe and not caused trouble by sharing his dreams. But hey, if it’s all about “peace and quiet,”—you’ll find plenty of that in any cemetery.
For 2000 years we Jews have dreamed to restore the holiness of Jerusalem. We have yearned for Jerusalem for more than 1,800 years, and now it is miraculously back under our control.
After the Balfour Declaration—whose 100th anniversary we celebrated in November—the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, was invited to a ceremony expressing gratitude to Britain. He said: “I am not coming to thank Britain. They did not give us something which belonged to them, for the Land of Israel is already ours. Rather I am coming to bless Britain, since anyone who helps the Nation of Israel is deserved of blessing.”…And so we bless America and—no matter what you think of President Donald Trump—he deserves a blessing for having the courage and foresight to do this.
In the end, true salvation for Jerusalem will not come from DC—the District of Columbia—but from the world realizing that Jerusalem is DC—David’s Capitol, David’s City. Amen!