Of all the grand and sometimes divorced-from-reality remarks made at the ceremony inaugurating the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, the most blatant was the emotional statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “It’s a great day for peace.”
Because alas, peace at the time looked a lot more like a bloodbath taking place on the Gaza border, the number of dead and wounded rising at a dizzying pace, than like an elegant event in the rejected Israeli capital whose honor was restored, if only in part.
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Anyone who tries to link the diplomatic process that is in a terminal state to the transfer of the American Embassy to West Jerusalem is being wishful, if not hallucinatory. The transfer of the embassy, which will soon be forgotten given the pace of events in our region, will no more influence the chances for peace than cupping glasses have an effect on the dead.
Israel has a full right to host in the western part of its official capital as many embassies at it wishes. Moreover, Monday’s move was, first and foremost, the fulfillment of U.S. President Donald Trump’s election promise to his religious voters and to the extreme wing of his party. Netanyahu is certainly reaping a political profit from this festival. We will see lots of these pictures during the next election campaign. But every prime minister before him would have been happy to be in his shoes.
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Against the backdrop of Netanyahu’s recent achievements, it seems that nothing can rain on his parade. Not the left — whose leader, Tamar Zandberg, in typical Pavlovian fashion “boycotted” the ceremony — nor the Palestinians, and not even the sour Europeans who absented themselves.
When Washington is behind him more than 100 percent, no one can beat him. The close cooperation between the two countries could even be seen in the color of the ties worn by the prime minister and by Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner – loud red, perhaps as a gesture to the Republican party.
The texts and atmosphere were heavily dosed with religion. If there hadn’t been mixed seating of men and women in the audience, one might have mistaken the event for a synagogue inauguration. The combination of Bible verses in the speakers’ addresses with the repeated glorification of Donald Trump, who isn’t exactly the moral type, was rather oppressive.
What also caught the eye was the placement of Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miri, at the event. The organizers, the U.S. Embassy in Israel, sat them in the front row with President Reuven Rivlin, the prime minister and his wife, Sara, Kushner and Ivanka Trump, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and his wife Irina. It was as if the casino mogul from Las Vegas was a government official or at least an official representative of the White House. Israeli government ministers were relegated to the third row.
The investment paid off. Adelson won. His money has earned him the admiration of two governments. His huge campaign contribution – reportedly $30 million – to Trump’s election campaign when the latter was in distress earned him that front row seat. But what’s 120 million shekels compared to the hundreds of millions that have been invested to this day in the Netanyahus’ private propaganda vehicle Israel Hayom? That is certainly no less important to Netanyahu than the dedication of the embassy.