RABBI SHMULEY: Trump Can Advance Peace by Moving Embassy to Jerusalem

U.S. Embassy Israel (Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi / Associated Press)
Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi / Associated Press

Over the past few weeks, President-elect Donald Trump has alleviated any doubts – such that they ever existed – of being a tremendous friend and stalwart supporter of Israel.

As President Barack Obama has used his last weeks in office to assail the Jewish state at the UN, even as he has ignored the genocide in Aleppo, Trump has used his Twitter feed as a formidable weapon in defense of the Jewish state. “Stay Strong Israel,” he tweeted on 28 December, “January 20th is fast approaching!”

During the campaign, Trump remarked that he might use his formidable negotiating skills to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together to reach a peace agreement. He may succeed where others have failed. However, he can make a more immediate contribution to peace by moving forward with his plans to move the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, on Day One of his presidency.

Practically, many steps are involved in transferring the staff and security from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But Ambassador David Friedman can immediately set up shop in the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, raise the American flag and expunge all the nonsensical State Department rules that prohibit diplomats from treating Jerusalem like any other capital recognized by the United States (e.g., official cars are not allowed to fly the U.S. flag in the city). He can also immediately demand that the State Department fulfill the congressional mandate to allow all U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to list Jerusalem, Israel, as their birthplace (as opposed to the Neverland that State insists they now come from).

President Obama attended Shimon Peres’ funeral on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Israel — or so we thought. The next day, however, the reference to Israel was “corrected” in the transcript of his remarks, so apparently Obama spoke in the Twilight Zone. But such trivialities and nonsense are unfortunately what we’ve come to expect from Obama’s Middle East foreign policy.

President Trump can once and for all end the confusion and hypocrisy by recognizing Israel’s capital. I’m not sure how many people are even aware that of the 190 nations with which America has diplomatic relations, Israel is the only one whose capital is not recognized by the U.S. government.

In 1990, Congress passed a resolution declaring that “Jerusalem is and should remain the capital of the State of Israel.” Five years later, Congress overwhelmingly passed The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. This law reiterated that official U.S. policy should recognize Jerusalem as the undivided, eternal capital of Israel and required that the U.S. embassy in Israel be established in Jerusalem no later than May 1999. Unfortunately, the law included a waiver that allowed the president to ignore the legislation if he deemed doing so to be in the nation’s best interests. Each president subsequently used that waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv and making a mockery of the Congressional will.

Why have presidents from Clinton to Obama refused to execute the will of the Congress?

Two words: cowardice and coercion.

Each president was frightened by State Department warnings that the Islamic world would rise up in protest and create a cataclysm in the Middle East that will spread to the United States. It is just one example of how State Department Arabists, who tried to prevent the creation of Israel in the first place, and have sought to weaken it ever since, have negatively influenced American policy.

Rather than stand up for democracy and the rule of law, these “striped-pants boys,” as Harry Truman called them, have for 70-odd years convinced presidents the sky would fall if they were too supportive of Israel.

Refusing to move the embassy, like earlier failures to strengthen US-Israel ties, is nothing short of spinelessness. Trump’s predecessors gave in to blackmail from Arab and Muslim leaders, the fictional “Arab street,” and terrorists. It may seem strange, but it’s true: the most powerful nation in the history of the world, with the most formidable military ever seen, refused to recognize the capital of its greatest ally because it was blackmailed with threats of violence.

By contrast, throughout the campaign Trump demonstrated he could not be bullied by political opponents, the press or protestors. He now has the opportunity to stand up to some of the world’s worst tyrants, as well as diplomats of the Obama State Department which he will inherit.

Will the Middle East go up in flames if the U.S. embassy moves 40 miles down the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

Hello? Anyone notice that the Middle East has been on fire since at least the Arab spring? Are we foolish enough to believe that the Sunnis and Shiites killing each other throughout the region will stop fighting and mount a defense of Jerusalem against the “sons of apes and pigs?” Will ISIS, al-Qaeda and the rest of the radical Islamists turn their attention away from their Western enemies and their rivals in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere to Jerusalem, whose status as Israel’s capital has not changed since 1967? Will radical Muslims who seek the destruction of the West because we are infidels become more radical because the US flag is flying over a building Jerusalem?

The notion is absurd.

Some will say that there will be more terrorist attacks. Sorry to disabuse you of this notion, but they’re already trying to kill us, and they’re don’t require further inspiration.

Of course, the Palestinians are making bloodcurdling threats. Though it may be news to Secretary of State John Kerry, this has been going on since the 1920s, when the Mufti of Jerusalem regularly used the “al-Aqsa mosque is in danger” libel to provoke riots against Jews. The same lie was used by Yasser Arafat and repeatedly by Mahmoud Abbas. And, in case Kerry missed the news, the way he misses Iran flouting the catastrophic nuclear deal, four beautiful young Israelis — three women and one man ages 20 to 22 — were run over and killed by a truck in Jerusalem on January 8, even though the embassy remains in Tel Aviv.

Americans don’t like to believe that religious wars exist anymore even though we can read about them every day in the newspaper reports about the slaughter going on in the Middle East. The Palestinian-Israeli dispute has always had a religious element and it has only grown stronger as Palestinians have become radicalized and adopted the genocidal goals of the most extreme Muslims, such as the leaders of Hamas and the mullahs of Iran who openly call for Israel’s destruction.

For the last eight years, Obama has refused to utter the words “radical Islam” because he is unwilling to fight back against those who have declared war on our way of life. President-elect Trump has shown he is not afraid of upsetting the people who hate us because of who we are and not what we do.

Moving the embassy is not just a matter of standing up to bullies and diplomats who believe they know what’s best for the people of Israel. No — moving the embassy is also an essential first step toward peace. Recognition of a united Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital should disabuse the Palestinians of the fantasy that the city will ever be divided again or that they will have sovereignty over any part of the city, let alone the holiest places in Judaism.

Their rights to pray at their holy places will not be infringed upon, as they are not now, and Palestinians living in Jerusalem who wish to become Israeli citizens (already a growing number) will enjoy all the rights they are now denied by the Palestinian Authority – freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, women’s rights and LGBT rights.

Palestinians, unlike many of their supporters outside the Middle East, actually understand that they will live better lives under Israeli rule than they ever could in a Palestinian state. That is why polls of Jerusalem Arabs show that majorities would prefer to live in Israel over a Palestinian state.

Once the embassy is moved, and the Trump administration makes clear that Jerusalem’s sovereignty is not negotiable, it will be possible to discuss an end to the dispute that will ensure Israel’s peace and security and allow Palestinians greater political autonomy but without the possibility of creating yet another terror state that threatens Israel’s existence.

Some people will be unhappy by the embassy move, but no other place on earth is treated as hypocritically as Jerusalem. It is a holy city, but so are many others whose sovereignty is not questioned. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim, state while its Jewish history stretches back 3000 years to King David.

Jerusalem is the center of Jewish life, the place generations of Jews dreamed of seeing and, even today, is the object of veneration of Jews around the world. It is the eternal capital of the Jewish State of Israel, and soon-to-be President Trump should waste no time declaring that the United States recognizes this straightforward history and these undeniable facts.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” has just published The Israel Warrior: Standing Up for the Jewish State from Campus to Street Corner. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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