Not every article makes you popular with all readers, as is evident from the long trail of comments following my New York Times article from yesterday. In this article I raised several points, but let me begin with a few sentences:
It would be a great exaggeration to argue that Mr. Trump bears much resemblance to Harry Truman. But the president — often criticized for being blunt and never shying away from saying what he wants to say — will have his Trumanesque moment by refusing to pretend that Israel has no capital.
Truman recognized the State of Israel. Trump will recognize the capital of Israel. In both cases, Israel’s neighbors refused to accept reality. But it did not matter. Israel exists, Jerusalem is its capital.
What I explained in the article, and many readers did not understand, is that there are two pillars on which to base a recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
There is the undeniable historical connection of Jews to Jerusalem as their historical capital.
And there is reality: Israel controls Jerusalem, its government is in Jerusalem and it is not going to let this reality change.
These two facts ought to be enough.
My column for the Jewish Journal this week, which you will be able to read in the print edition, begins in this way:
Give President Trump credit for doing the right thing. Give him credit for once using his blunt manner, and cut-through-bullshit approach, for doing something good. Give him credit for stating the obvious: Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Nothing can change this, nothing is supposed to change this. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not infringe on anyone’s rights, it does not preclude a settlement over Jerusalem in the future, it does not mean that the Palestinians can’t have a claim for parts of Jerusalem. It is correcting a wrong — the wrong notion that Israel should be the only country in the world derived from the right to establish a capital where it wants it to be.
Note this sentence: “Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not infringe on anyone’s rights.”
Trump is not saying that Jerusalem cannot be the capital of a future Palestinian State. He does not say that no compromise in Jerusalem is necessary. He does not preclude any future option for a settlement. The Palestinians and other Arab countries are angry not because calling Jerusalem Israel’s capital complicates the peace process. They are angry because they do not want Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital — some of them probably even see it as a cultural or religious insult.
I’ll say it again in a different way: It is not Trump’s recognition that complicates the peace process. It is the unjustified anger of Arabs that complicates the peace process.
For those who want to deal with the nuances of diplomatic language rather than celebrate a symbolic moment of recognition, I’d suggest reading David Makovsky and Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute. They say something similar to what I just said, only better:
[Trump] should make clear that his declaration is not about determining Jerusalem’s final status or boundaries, and that such decisions must still be made through direct negotiations between Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs (including Jordan, whose role regarding the holy sites was recognized as part of its peace treaty with Israel). In other words, he should simply recognize that Jerusalem will always be Israel’s capital, even if claims about its exact contours can only be resolved through peace talks.
I also hinted in my NYT article that Israel will not be intimidated by the threat of violence. Some readers thought this was a problematic assertion. But it’s not. Every country has issues over which it is willing to accept the need to withstand violence. Every country with a minimum of self-pride would accept the need, if challenged, to withstand violence in order to guard its capital.
You might not care what Israelis think — because they are clearly biased. But note that a vast majority of them, including representatives of all parties except leftist Meretz and the United Arab List, support the recognition of Jerusalem. On this issue, there is (almost) no right and left. The Labor Party supports it, the Jewish Home Party supports it.
Jerusalem will not change as a result of a declaration. It is still, in many ways, a problematic city in need of wise municipal policies.
In the study I wrote not long ago for The Jewish People Policy Institute on Jerusalem and the Jewish people we (me and John Ruskay, co-head of this project) wrote the following:
A clear majority of engaged Jews the world over believe that “all countries ought to move their embassies to Jerusalem.” A small majority of engaged Jews the world over agree that Jerusalem “should never be divided.” A significant majority wants it to be a city “with a clear Jewish majority,” and that “the Temple Mount must remain under Israeli jurisdiction.” However, in a seemingly contradictory statement, a small majority also argues that “Israel should be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction.”
I think that covers it all – and it’s all backed by research and data. Jerusalem is our capital. Period. And some of us are also willing to make a compromise in Jerusalem to get peace.
Last and maybe least
Yes, I believed Donald Trump when he vowed to move the embassy. The proof is online.
Why did I believe him? As I wrote more than a year ago, because I thought he is quite serious about many of the promises he made during the campaign. Also, because (as I wrote) moving the embassy is not complicated but highly visible – namely, it is an action that further establishes Trump’s intention to depart with American orthodoxy.