The Israelis are doing it again. That thing they do when someone, anyone, even a total nishtgutnick like Donald Trump, comes along and tosses them a few warm words. Their little hearts leap to be told that, on balance, all things being equal, they have a right to exist, perhaps even to defend themselves, and that calls for their destruction are jolly well not on. Recognition is a miser’s feast but Israel gorges on it like a banquet.
They are dining out on Donald Trump’s proclamation ‘that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and that the United States Embassy to Israel will be relocated to Jerusalem as soon as practicable’. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared it ‘a historic day’. President Reuven Rivlin said there was ‘no more fitting or beautiful gift, as we approach 70 years of the State of Israel’s independence’. The walls of the Old City were illuminated with Israeli and American flags in celebration.
Barely had the timbrels begun jangling than Donald Trump signed a waiver deferring relocation of the embassy for another six months. American foreign policy was changing in tone but not in substance. The Israelis’ jubilation was matched only by the apocalyptic hysteria of those on the other side; not just the Palestinians but Israel’s true enemies: the foreign policy establishment. The diplomatocracy, the academics, and the New York Times were up in arms – a sure sign that the President had made the right call. European politicians echoed the denunciations.
In fact, Trump’s proclamation was neither Zionist heroics nor reckless grenade-throwing – it was just mundane acknowledgement of the law. As he said yesterday, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, calling on the federal government to recognise Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there. Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama all endorsed the principle of the statute but invoked its national security clause to defer relocation. The only difference between Donald Trump and his predecessors is that he issued his proclamation in writing, rather than as an applause line in a speech. The embassy remains in Tel Aviv and likely will for years to come.
The histrionics are unnecessary but to be expected where Israel is involved. The international community is obsessively ignorant about the Jewish state, checking in occasionally to lecture an embattled liberal outpost on the proper etiquette for preventing its children from being blown up. This engenders a reflexive idiocy that treats absurd banalities as wise statecraft. Those who insisted for years that the peace process was dead now say that Trump has killed it. Those who asserted that US foreign policy was controlled by the Israel lobby now lament the surrender of America’s neutrality. Those who championed recognition of Palestine without negotiations are suddenly sceptical about unilateralism. Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote to Donald Trump to warn that implementing the Jerusalem Embassy Act would ‘spark violence and embolden extremists’. Dianne Feinstein voted for the Jerusalem Embassy Act.
The Palestinians have threatened to respond with rage and unrest. Or ‘Thursday’ as it’s otherwise known. So little is expected of them that the threat of violence is seen as a reasonable response to Trump’s proclamation. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, now in the second decade of his four-year term in office, accused the United States of walking away from the peace process and undermining the security of the region. Donald Trump has appropriated Palestinian culture.
There is a polite, cuddly racism to the way their international admirers treat the Palestinians. They deserve a homeland but they cannot have someone else’s, and Jerusalem is someone else’s capital. Yes, it is a sacred place for the three Abrahamic faiths — something Israel protects fiercely — but it belongs to only one of them. Jerusalem has been sacked, burned, occupied and but has never been the capital of any other sovereign nation other than Israel. It’s not just the the capital of Israel but the spiritual heart of Judaism.
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. That cannot be wished away, shouted down or flooded in myth and revisionist history. Donald Trump, a man with a strained relationship to reality, is being damned for finally telling the truth.