Was Trump right about Jerusalem?

Print More

Yes, it is possible that President Trump was right to declare that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel.

That is what some of the people I respect are saying. They are prompting me to re-visit and to re-think my own assumptions. 

First, my friend and colleague, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism. His liberal credentials are impeccable. 

This is what he recently wrote in Haaretz:

President Trump’s statement on Jerusalem was good for the peace camp.

The center and mainstream left in Israel understood this, while pro-Israel liberals and leftists in America did not.

This was not my initial reaction. As a peace advocate and a strong supporter of a two-state solution, I responded to Trump’s pronouncement on Israel’s capital the same way that I respond to virtually everything that the President says: negatively and dismissively…

Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel, whether the President of the United States says so or not. Nonetheless, it is comforting and gratifying when President Trump finally states what I know to be eternal and true.


Second, my friend and colleague, Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, spiritual leader of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City — and, like Rabbi Yoffie, a former executive director of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America. Likewise, a liberal.

We have yearned for Jerusalem for two millennia. It is the source of our strength, the place where our people was formed, where the Bible was written. Jews lived free and made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a thousand years. Our national existence changed the world and led to the creation of two other great faiths.

The world’s superpower finally did the right thing, and we opposed it – not on the principle, but on the “timing.” The timing? Now is the not the right time? Two thousand years later and it is still not the right time? As if there is a peace process that the Palestinians are committed to and pursuing with conviction.

Let me re-visit my own words, written in this column, two weeks ago.

First, I worried that the pronouncement would have provoked outbreaks of violence.

Except, the reactions were far less violent than I expected, and than they could have been.

Moreover, we would have had to consider the source.

Again, Eric Yoffie:

When Palestinians express their outrage and demand justice for Jerusalem, I can’t help wondering: Where was justice when Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were claiming at the UN that Jews have no historical connection to the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, and indeed to all of Jerusalem?

Last Thursday in Istanbul, Abbas repeated this ugly and absurd claim at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Having insisted that Jerusalem’s holy sites belong only to Muslims and Christians, how much sympathy do they have a right to expect now?

Why are we concerned more about Trump’s proclaiming a truth, than about Palestinians proclaiming lies?

Second, I believed that President Trump made this proclamation to appease his Christian evangelical base.

In retrospect — if that was true, big deal. When he wants to appease that base, there are far, far worse and more dangerous things that he could do.

What about the United States’ position as an honest broker in the Israel-Palestinian dispute?

Here, I turn to my Israel education rebbe, Professor Ken Stein, of Emory University and the Center for Israel Education.

How do those who said he received nothing in return know what was promised privately to the US by the Israelis or by Arab states? When Jared Kusher was in Saudi Arabia a month ago, how do we know what was said then, before or after? The muted Saudi reaction to the Trump statement might be a tell-tale sign.

Translation: we do not know what is happening behind the scenes.

Further, Stein writes:

Trump said, “This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved…The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed by both sides… I call on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif.”

Yes, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

And, there might come a time when East Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state.

Finally, the words of my friend, the Zionist thinker, Gil Troy.

Those who mocked Republicans as the Party of No during Barack Obama’s presidency, should take any opportunity Trump offers to demonstrate that they oppose Trump on principle, not out of partisan pique…Jews, too, need some healing, and our love for Jerusalem has long united us.

Gil’s words chasten us.

Just because Trump is often wrong, does not mean that he is always wrong.

It also means that when we agree with the President on something, it is incumbent upon us to say so.

That is not only pragmatic; it is also Jewish. It is the mitzvah of hakarat ha-tov, mentioning the good that people can do.

If I choose to revisit what I have written, and to rethink those words, it would be true to the name of this column.

I am all about creating Martini Judaism — not only as a column, but also as an attitude.

Just as I want Jews to be shaken and stirred, I want to shake and stir my own thoughts, my own opinions, my own positions.

I would have it no other way.