Patience is a virtue
Savlanut. Patience. Our friends in Washington are telling us to continue to believe in them. And I do. After a series of meetings in DC, with Congressional leaders and White House officials, I do believe in their strong commitment to Israel and to the ideals that we share. I know they are working to get it just right – to ensure Israel’s security and growth, while encouraging our neighbors to get in line and discuss our future together in this region.
As we welcome newly appointed US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, I honestly feel a connection that was missing before. This is an Administration that does need a history lesson, nor does it need a helicopter ride to understand the slim borders in which we exist. What these friends do need is time. I’m not saying we hang up our hats to sit and wait. I’m willing to give them a chance – because they are us. We are them. This is a unique time in which US leaders finally know the meaning of a symbiotic relationship, and they recognize its benefits.
So mark this down on your calendar and let’s compare notes then: December 1, 2017. Six short months from now. I expect President Trump to sound presidential on his visit here in Israel next week. Yes, it’s Jerusalem’s jubilee celebration of reunification as our eternal capital city. Yes, the timing is a bit extraordinary and I dare say historic.
But what we’ll probably hear will make us cheer, perhaps even stand for an ovation. What we may not hear is a declaration that turns US policy around: Recognition of Jerusalem as our eternal, united capital.
What? That’s not already America’s policy, at least in parts of the city? You don’t need me to explain this, as the recent farce with US State Department officials shows. They do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Western Wall, our beloved Kotel – remnant of the retaining walls of our Jewish Temple. Destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE and never rebuilt, we Jews keep Jerusalem in our hearts and our prayers every day for generations. I’ll leave the detailed comparison with our neighboring religions to you, smart readers, who’ve heard this before.
Another example of existing policy: The US Embassy in Tel Aviv has no authority in Jerusalem’s Old City and other areas. Its website opens with this disturbing piece of information:
Welcome to the homepage of American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv. We provide information and assistance to U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Israel. U.S. citizens in Jerusalem, the West Bank, or Gaza should contact the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem.
And one more: Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked cannot meet with US officials in her Ministry office; our American guests quietly suggest meetings in ‘western’ parts of the city. Really?
With all this – should we be worried? Does talk of the Kotel mean dialing back on outdated policy that doesn’t keep up with presidential promises during the campaign or Republican Party policy as stated clearly in their platform? Liberal, left voices would have us questioning enthusiasm on issuing in a new era of cooperation with the Trump Administration. Yes, some set our sites too high – or more accurately, too soon. I know that things take time, and that might not be a bad thing. But even better – when push came to shove, the White House pushed right back with a major change in policy. Our friends were rightfully embarrassed at the possibility that an American would tell an Israeli that he or she was not in charge at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City!
I’m actually encouraged and delighted that this issue was brought to the fore, perhaps inadvertently. The results are astounding and historic. The White House issued a statement very quickly, that the comments were:
“not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the President (!)”
Keep in mind: In the United States, the President has the power to create foreign policy, by simply making a statement. Not so in our parliamentary government. So taking the White House statement at face value, we have what is inferred as historic recognition of Israel as sovereign in the Old City. Now it’s up to us to work with our friends in the Administration, many of whom start work today (!), to ensure a smooth transition to that policy.
We may be celebrating the victories of the Six-Day-War by ourselves this season – a united Jerusalem, Jewish Shomron and Judean Hills, Hebron, the Golan Heights, Jordan Valley and Gaza. These liberated parts of our homeland are a part of us. But we know that. What we’d like is our influential friends to adopt official policies that reflect what they’ve already told us. Move the embassy in the coming months? Check. Recognize Jerusalem as our capital? Yes. I’d prefer no waiver signed, and no delay in doing what’s right.
Yet in hindsight, these few months will be forgotten, in the celebration of world recognition for Jerusalem as ours, and all that entails, from the Kotel to the Temple Mount, to our rights on passports and birth certificates, for an eternal understanding of why we’re here at all.
And for that, I have patience. Just don’t try us for too long, as we know what is right and what should happen in the near future. See you in December.