After signing, US President Donald Trump holds up the proclamation that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move its embassy there, during an address from the White House in Washington, US, December 6, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin the process of moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv was positively courageous. Given the cowardice of his predecessors on this issue, that is perhaps the correct adjective; however, the president simply corrected a longstanding injustice and recognized both historical and political reality. Most Jewish organizations understandably applauded Trump’s action, but a surprising number condemned him and thereby revealed their true level of support for the homeland of the Jewish people.
Given the antipathy of many Jews for this president, perhaps it is not surprising that groups from the Left would criticize Trump. Still, I thought that Jerusalem was one issue on which there was near universal Jewish agreement in America, as there is in Israel, where the president’s announcement was welcomed by politicians from across the political spectrum, with perhaps the exception of the far-left and Arab parties.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America supported the president’s decision, but in an unnecessary potshot asserted the administration “has neglected efforts to meaningfully support peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” Couldn’t they hold their fire for just a few days and savor the moment?
“Israel’s capital is in Jerusalem and it should be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution that also establishes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem,” according to left-wing extremist J Street.
The New Israel Fund, a group that funds organizations calling for the boycott of Israel, called the president’s decision “dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible.”
Americans for Peace Now, a group that supports the antisemitic boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, said, “Trump is causing severe damage to the prospects of Middle East peace, imperiling lives, and degrading US leadership.”
Perhaps the most disappointing response came from Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who agreed in principle with the president, but said the group could not support moving the embassy “absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process.”
How absurd. Why should locating our embassy in Israel’s capital, the only capital in the world where we do not have an embassy, be tied to the peace process?
For those who have been asleep for the past eight years, there is no peace process. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to speak to his Israeli counterpart since 2008.
And who is supposed to come up with this comprehensive plan? The State Department has been trying unsuccessfully for decades. Are we really supposed to hold our embassy hostage in the hope that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or anyone else in the administration, the EU, or the UN will come up with the magic formula that has eluded everyone else?
This notion that Israelis and Palestinians have not reached an agreement because the Einstein of peace negotiations has not been born yet reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of the conflict. There is no shortage of peace plans, many of which seem reasonable. The problem is not the plans, it is the Palestinians’ refusal to contemplate any compromise that accepts the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.
Never was this clearer than in 2000, when prime minister Ehud Barak offered to withdraw from the entire Gaza Strip (before Israel did so unilaterally in 2005) and 97% of the West Bank, evacuate most settlements and give the Palestinians sovereignty over some parts of Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat vetoed the deal, and Abbas rejected a similar offer in 2008.
The dispute is not about land: it is historical, geographic, political, psychological and, perhaps most important, religious. It is unacceptable to the Palestinians that Jews should rule over Muslims or have a state on what they consider Islamic territory. Look at their maps and their symbols, which show “Palestine” replacing Israel. I defy anyone to show me an official Palestinian map that depicts a Palestinian state beside Israel – with or without east Jerusalem as its capital.
And, incidentally, what right does J Street have to speak for the people of Israel in offering to divide the capital of the Jewish people?
Talk about chutzpah.
Until the proponents of more plans accept the reality of the Palestinian agenda, they are wasting everyone’s time and creating the perpetual conditions for denying recognition of Israel’s capital. It is also hypocritical for countries to demand that America delay moving its embassy when they did not wait for the conflict to be resolved before opening consulates in Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians.
If anything, Trump’s critics have the situation exactly backwards. Now is precisely the time to recognize Jerusalem and move the embassy because that may finally convince the Palestinians that time is not on their side. They cannot put off making concessions if they hope to remain credible in any discussions. Israel is not going to stop building settlements in land where 80% of Hebrew biblical events transpired and which form the very cradle of ancient Jewish history.
When the Palestinians rejected Menachem Begin’s autonomy offer in the late ‘70s, there were less than 10,000 Jews in the West Bank. Today, the number is nearly 400,000.
Israel has shown it is willing to make tough, even irresponsible sacrifices, as it did giving up the Sinai to Egypt and withdrawing from Gaza. These proved to be serious strategic errors as Sinai has now largely become an Islamic State territory, where just two weeks ago 500 innocent Arabs were murdered at a mosque in prayer, and Gaza is controlled by genocidal Hamas. The Palestinians have demonstrated nothing but obstinacy and squandered opportunities for statehood in 1937, 1947, during Jordan’s occupation, in 1979, 1993, 2000 and 2008.
I pray for peace, but it will not be the result of a peace plan concocted by outsiders. Peace will come when Palestinians sit down opposite Israelis, accept Israel’s existence and demonstrate to the Israeli people – not the UN, the EU or anyone else – that they are prepared to coexist beside a strongly defined Jewish state. If they do, they will find Israelis willing to reach out to them as brothers. That is the only formula that has any chance of success.The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom The Washington Post and Newsweek call “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including his most recent, The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.