Opinion |

A Presidential Declaration for Jerusalem Day

Trump must persuade us - and his persuasiveness suffered a harsh blow this week - that Israel’s security, status and dignity really are dear to his heart

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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U.S. President Donald Trump.
U.S. President Donald Trump.Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

U.S. President Donald Trump is arriving in the capital of the Jewish people at a time when in Israel and in Jewish centers the world over people are celebrating the 50th anniversary of its liberation.

There is no more suitable occasion for a presidential declaration that, in honor of this important jubilee, the United States is giving the Jewish people a gift – recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and of the Jewish people, and moving the U.S. embassy to the city.

The explanation must include an apology that such a natural, just and self-evident step is coming after an incomprehensible delay of about 70 years. The entire world knows this is the reality, the historical truth, which is accompanied by the president’s promise. And promises that come from those who have responsibility for the world on their shoulders must be kept. This would also lend him respect – which he so badly needs – in the eyes of his nation and among other nations and leaders, to whom he also made many promises, and who are also waiting for them to be kept.

There will be a considerable uproar, it’s true (in which quite a number of Israelis will want to participate), but the image of the leader who promises and delivers will only increase his stature as a leader in his own country, in a world that is worriedly keeping track of his whims – and in the arena of renewing the Middle East negotiations; after all, that’s the purpose of the visit, isn’t it?

If Trump wants to succeed where his predecessors failed, he must convince the public and the government that in areas that they consider crucial for the identity and survival of the state, he isn’t a coward, and that no diplomatic step he adopts will be expressed as a diktat, such as a freeze on construction in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria.

He must persuade us – and his persuasiveness suffered a harsh blow this week – that Israel’s security, status and dignity really are dear to his heart. The declaration about moving the embassy would definitely be a confidence-building measure.

It really is a possible and desirable scenario. But in the present situation there is almost no chance it will be realized. Wherever Trump can make a mess of things, he does. The strange occurrences surrounding his visit to Israel are typical of his personality. Although the White House announced that the statement about the Western Wall being “in the West Bank” was made without his authorization, in every hierarchical organization there is “the spirit of the commander.”

Whoever whipped up the latest blunders, including the leak to the effect that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Trump he wasn’t interested in moving the embassy to Jerusalem, believed that this was the commander’s wish (or maybe this was the doing of the commander himself).

Netanyahu’s opponents are not concealing their schadenfreude. It’s the happiness of losers. Tomorrow Trump is liable to disappoint them just as he disappointed Netanyahu. Just because he is not keeping his promises on Jerusalem and the settlements doesn’t mean he will adopt their map of concessions.

The most important consequence of the deceit surrounding the visit until now (and who knows what more awaits us?) is that the Israeli public, most of which seemingly supported Trump’s election, is losing confidence in this deceitful man, who in addition to everything else is also giving away Israel’s secrets to the Russians, who might give them to the Iranians. In such a situation, with the significant erosion of Trump’s status in Israel, he won’t be able to force withdrawals on it, nor to deliver the goods that the opposition is so eagerly awaiting: forcing an agreement with the Palestinians. So what are they so happy about?

It’s quite certain that Trump will not go down as the jewel in the crown of American history. In Jewish history the notebook is (still) open and the hand is writing. A few basic decisions, such as recognition of Jerusalem and moving the embassy, a generous response to Israel’s security and settlement needs, and defending it from those harassing it in international institutions are sufficient to award him an honorable place in Jewish history. Because this long history has suffered many harsh disappointments, it values the (few) rulers who were friendly to it.

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