Editorial

Alone at the Western Wall

There is only one way to international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – making an agreement with the Palestinians to divide the land between two states, each of which will be able to set its capital in the holy city

File photo: Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Western Wall.
File photo: Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Western Wall. Avi Ohayon / GPO

Next Tuesday the president of the United States, Donald Trump, will visit the Western Wall with his family. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who badly wanted to escort the distinguished guest at the holy site, will have to watch him on television.

Netanyahu will sit in his office in West Jerusalem, a few kilometers from the event, and won’t be able to attend. The U.S. administration insisted on classifying the presidential tour in the Old City as “private” and Israel consented, for lack of any other choice, as it did whenever foreign leaders visited the site in the past.

This is how Trump burst the “united Jerusalem, eternal capital of the nation of Israel” balloon, right in the week Netanyahu’s government will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of annexing the eastern part of the city. Again it has been proven that the international community will not recognize the occupied territories’ annexation, no matter how much time passes and who’s in power.

Even Trump, whom the Israeli right’s leaders described as an ideological partner and a political savior, won’t have Israeli officials escort him to the Western Wall and won’t move the American embassy to Jerusalem. Trump obeys the UN Security Council’s resolutions, which recognize the Green Line from before the Six Day War as Israel’s legitimate border, and not one millimeter on its other side. Not even a Jewish place of prayer, which is supposedly beyond domestic or foreign controversy. The Netanyahu government has tried to obtain American recognition for annexing the Western Wall, but senior administration officials have avoided the issue until UN Ambassador Nikki Haley supported the Israeli position.

But these are insignificant background noises. The president decides, not his aides, and the president will go to the Western Wall alone. This is the picture the whole world will see: Israeli sovereignty retreats from the Western Wall to make way for Trump’s visit.

If Israel wants the world to recognize its hold on the Western Wall, no unity displays and state ceremonies will do any good. There is only one way to international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – making an agreement with the Palestinians to divide the land between two states, each of which will be able to set its capital in the holy city.

But Netanyahu’s government insists on cultivating every godforsaken outpost – even at the cost of losing the support for its sovereignty over the Western Wall.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.