During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged that he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. He has now made a courageous announcement making good on his campaign promise.
Recognition of reality is long overdue.
The usual suspects — Palestinians and their supporters, certain Arab governments, and some in the State Department — are howling as they do each time the issue is raised. The Palestinians say they will not negotiate, the Arabs say the Muslim world will revolt against us, and the State Department says U.S. interests will be threatened and the peace process will end. The president has ignored these doomsayers.
First, we all want peace. Our Palestinian brothers have refused to negotiate with Israel for eight years. They would not talk after President Barack Obama coerced Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze settlement construction for 10 months. They have made excuses ever since. During the summer, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reached a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, joining hands with the organization whose raison d’être is the annihilation of Israel.
Is it possible that some of our Muslim brothers will be angry with the United States if it recognizes the obvious fact that Jerusalem is, and has been since 1948, Israel’s capital? Radical Muslims don’t need any new reasons to attack us. They already view Americans as decadent infidels who deserve death. We cannot allow our foreign policy to be held hostage by people who despise our democratic and religious values. If we based all our policies on whether they might upset Muslim extremists, we would be totally paralyzed.
To those who say moving the embassy will kill the peace process, I have a simple question: What peace process would that be?
I understand that the president is preparing his own initiative and does not want to lose the opportunity to make the “ultimate deal.” Despite this, however, the prospects for reaching a deal will be enhanced by recognizing Jerusalem and moving the embassy. The reason is that one of the prerequisites to a deal is disabusing our Palestinian brothers of the notion that Jerusalem will be divided or that Israel will give up sovereignty over the holiest sites of Judaism. The fact that the Western Wall is in “occupied” East Jerusalem is irrelevant, as the Jewish history of the entire city dates to the time of King David, centuries before Jordan divided the city, expelled the Jews, and became an occupying power.
The majority of the population in Jerusalem has been Jewish since at least 1844. For most of history under the Muslim Empire, Jerusalem was a backwater of no significance and never served as a provincial capital or a Muslim cultural center.
As for religious significance, the entirety of Jerusalem is holy to Jews. Our Muslim brothers only revere the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Palestinians have the right under Israeli law to worship at the mosque, a right we should always protect.
Now that America has acted, the rest of the world’s leaders will hopefully follow suit. In fact, for those who fear violence because of a change in policy, the best way to send a message to the extremists that they cannot intimidate us is for every country to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
On a personal note, in my son’s bedroom there is a photograph of my great-grandfather from Iran. He sports a long white beard and crushed hat. He was called Hajji Chaim because more than 100 years ago, family tradition has it, he traveled by foot over 2,000 kilometers from Isfahan, Iran, all the way to the holy city of Jerusalem. His dream was to plant his eyes upon the last fragments of the Holy Temple, destroyed 2000 years earlier by the Romans. He was renowned in the Iranian Jewish community for having made the great pilgrimage, and acquired the title Hajji for completing a form of a Jewish hajj.
I have heard this story from my father from the time I was a boy. This story of my ancestor indicates both what Jerusalem means to the Jewish people why we must never forfeit any part of it today.
President Trump has electrified the world with official American recognition of the eternal Jewish connection to the holy city of Jerusalem and as the capital of Israel.
Thank you, President Trump.
G-d bless America.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom Newsweek and the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the only Rabbi to have won the London Times Preacher of the Year competition and is the international best-selling author of 30 books. His website is www.shmuley.com. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.