President Trump, in his momentous decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, takes us all the way back to that school teacher in North Carolina who went to the Smoky Mountains to apply for a job.
The principal asked him if he believed the world was round. “Personally, I believe it is,” replied the applicant, “but I can teach either way.”
Jerusalem policy offers perhaps the hottest and most hilarious hypocrisy on the entire world stage. Last week House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said such recognition of Jerusalem would be a terrible idea. Yet she’d voted to do exactly that. And that policy is the one and only example of something that invites that contradictory behavior. Every president in recent times, regardless of party, has campaigned on the promise of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and nobody ever comes close – and nobody finds that remarkable. If the question is, “Do you actually believe what you say you believe our Jerusalem policy should be?” the only correct answer is, “No, of course not!” and that answer should be delivered without embarrassment.
The Israelis joke suggests that if Moses had taken a right instead of a left after leading the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, the Jews would have had all the oil and the Arabs would have been stuck with the oranges. We could go all the way back to biblical times to get a handle on this puzzle, but 1948, the year Israel achieved independence, will do. At that time the entire civilized world was recoiling in horror at Hitler’s murder of as many Jews as possible, and nobody wanted to disrespect every surviving Jew by voting No, especially since there had been continued Jewish habitation in the Holy Land, and since Jerusalem was such a powerful force in the Jewish religion while playing hardly any role at all in Islam.
On the other hand, basic diplomacy teaches that you don’t deliberately antagonize tens of millions of oil-rich Arabs to favor a vastly smaller remnant of Jewish survivors. The answer, therefore? Cheer loudly for moving your embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but don’t lift a shovel to bring it about.
And for a very long time everybody agreed to live with this little fiction in their lives. Then came Donald Trump.
President Trump’s marriage of rhetoric and reality over Jerusalem is not his first nor his only such defiance of international sloth, just his boldest.
The Israelis have long had clever talking points on why embassies should be in the capital of the host country. “How would you like it,” asked an Israeli diplomat on a radio talk show, “if all of a sudden you were told by our ambassador to the United States that our embassy would hereafter be in Kansas City?”
On the Friday night before the special election for senator in Alabama, Trump gave one of his best speeches, in Pensacola, Florida, and he dropped a breathtaking piece of information that’s too important to let go of. Trump confided that the secretary-Ggneral of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, admitted to Trump that he had simply failed to make NATO members pay their just dues. Trump is big on reminding us that collective security does not mean “We secure, they collect”! It means we all pay. Stoltenberg stepped aside and let Trump be the bill collector. Millions and billions were handily squeezed out of the NATO members. The thought here is the grand one that maybe it’s not too much to hope that Trump’s ascendency could possibly spark a “Back to Reality” movement worldwide, including recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The downside of such recognition is, tragically, that lives will be lost in a series of Palestinian “Days of Rage,” and beyond that, America will have forever forfeited its claim to be an “honest broker,” which, of course, we’re well qualified to fill. Even Palestinian propaganda interns know how to make excellent propaganda hash out of any American claim to impartiality after taking the lead in recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But sour grapes can make good wine. Did America ever really have a solid claim on “impartiality” as a Mideast peace broker? I hope not. If the Palestinians were to lay down their arms, it would be the end of war. If the Israelis were to lay down their arms, it would be the end of Israel.
The overarching tragedy of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is simple. If they would shake hands and go forward together the assets both sides bring to the marriage could make the “Holy Crescent” the richest part of the world.
I come down on the pro-Trump side, the pro-Jerusalem-is-Israel’s-Capital side.
Why? Simple answer. Because Jerusalem is the capital of Israel!