With American President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to Israel, a lot has been made of the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Will he or won’t he?
Then there’s the controversy surrounding diplomats stationed at the US consulate in East Jerusalem. They recently refused to hold talks with Israeli officials about arrangements for Trump’s trip to the Western Wall, claiming that it’s in the West Bank, and therefore the Israeli government has no authority over it.
The White House distanced itself later, saying that “these comments, if true, were not authorized by the White House. They do not reflect the US position, and certainly not the President’s position.”
But afterword, again, both White House press secretary Sean Spicer and Trump’s national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, when questioned about the Western Wall, refused to say whether it’s part of Israel or not.
Well, let me tell you something, the nearly 4,000 year old Jewish people don’t need anybody’s recognition of Jerusalem as our capital city. God recognizes it as such. For over 3,000 years, since King David made Jerusalem his capital, it’s been the capital of the Jewish people, whether we’ve had an independent Jewish political entity – kingdom, commonwealth, state – or not. And the Western Wall, it’s been holy to Jews since the destruction of the second temple, nearly two thousand years ago.
Now that Jerusalem has been re-unified, Jews aren’t ready to give it up. Jerusalem has never been the capital city of any other people or sovereign entity, and Israeli Jews overwhelmingly agree that it should be kept that way.
According to a poll by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, in March 2017, 79% of Israeli Jews said it’s important to retain a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, while only 15% said it’s not important.
About the embassy issue, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just said once again that, “It’s fitting that all the embassies – first and foremost that of our friend the United States – will be relocated to Jerusalem, which is their natural place.”
In fact, Jacob Nagel, who served as Netanyahu’s National Security Advisor has said that, “I heard the Prime Minister saying this in dozens of meetings with state leaders – and even jokingly adding that they should choose a place for the embassy, because there will soon be no vacancy in Jerusalem.”
Even opposition MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) agreed, and she doesn’t often agree with Netanyahu. In a recent interview, Tzipi Livni was asked, do you support the transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem? She answered, “Like every Israeli, I want to see the American Embassy and the other embassies move to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”
Then there’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), who recently tweeted, “I call on the Prime Minister to make it clear that we expect the American government to move the embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel.” He continued,“Just like embassies for countries around the world are located in the American capital, Washington, they should be located in Jerusalem, our capital for some 3,000 years.”
And while welcoming the new American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said, “I’m happy to welcome you and your dear wife to Israel, to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, and I’m welcoming you, not only as the President of Israel, but also as a Jerusalemite – seventh generation.” Rivlin then reminded him that, “Next week we will celebrate 50 years since Jerusalem was united and Jews were able to once again pray at the Western Wall. But Jewish Jerusalem isn’t 50 years old. Since the days of King David, this city has been our capital.” Rivlin continued, “It is time for the whole world to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of the State of Israel.”
Not long ago, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), while touring the Old City of Jerusalem, stated that dividing Jerusalem “is definitely not a good idea, even if it was practically possible…When you go and actually look at the communities, Jewish and Arab communities are right next to each. Everything is so tight and close, you can’t divide Jerusalem.” She contended that Israeli control of the city “is the only way to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and safe.”
So, although there is always much disagreement among politicians across the political spectrum on a wide variety of issues, most Israelis agree on two things, all embassies should be in the capital, Jerusalem, and Jerusalem should remain undivided under Israeli sovereignty.
Recently, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement reading, “The transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem not only will not harm the peace process, but the opposite. It will advance it by correcting a historic injustice and by smashing the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”
Bennett also tweeted, “Moving the US embassy to the Israeli capital strengthens Israel, and strengthens the chances for a true peace, since any agreement based on the division of Jerusalem is destined to fail.”
But one thing missed by many on the political right; building an American embassy by itself, in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem – on the western side of the city – does not preclude the division of Jerusalem.
Giving eastern Jerusalem – liberated from Jordan in 1967 – to the Palestinians for the capital of their state, is still possible. Some of the Israeli left could live with this.
Remember candidate Trump said, ‘’A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal – whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things.’’
Is recognizing Israeli control only over western Jerusalem, but intending to re-divide the city, Trump’s real plan?
Are some Israeli politicians who call for American and world wide recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, being duplicitous? Only time will tell.
In the mean time, Israelis and Jews around the world, soon will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s liberation and re-unification under sovereign Jewish control.
Happy Jerusalem Day!