Last week, an American president proclaimed in an official capacity what we have known for thousands of years: Jerusalem is the capital of our Jewish nation. Yes, he did not specify the borders of this Jewish capital. He did not state that the Temple Mount or even the Kotel should belong to the State of Israel in the context of a two-state solution. He did not assert his vision of which parts of Jerusalem should belong to Israel and to the Palestinians in the context of a two-state solution. But I am so grateful for three reasons.
First, this declaration begins to change the anti-Jewish revisionist history that has been unfolding as the global narrative. The Palestinians have begun a drive to change the language with which the international body refers to the Temple Mount area, known to the Muslims as Al-Haram Al Sharif. Just two weeks ago, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to disavow Israeli ties to Jerusalem as part of six anti-Israel resolutions that it approved by a vote of 151-6 with nine abstentions. This resolution was similar to previous resolutions passed by the UN cultural body UNESCO in recent years that accused Israel of endangering the Temple Mount, but also referred to the site throughout solely by its Arabic name, Haram al-Sharif. It is hard to be alone in protesting that which we know is true, and it gives all of us as Jews great comfort and support to have the US administration formally recognizing the unbreakable bond between our people and our capital.
Second, this declaration is a wake-up call to the Palestinians. Time is not on their side. They can’t simply bully concessions out of the State of Israel and threaten violence if their demands aren’t met and feel that they can get away with it. The mentality of much of the world has been, unfortunately, appeasement to the Palestinians so that they will return to the negotiating table. There was a fear to do anything that might upset the Palestinians due to the concern that they would walk away from peace negotiations. In return, there was no consequence to the Palestinians for inciting violence against the Jewish people, as they felt that they could wait out the Jewish people until we would elect leadership that would concede more and more to the Palestinians and get nothing in return. What we have seen in this historic declaration by President Trump is that facts on the ground matter. If the Palestinians refuse to act as a serious peace partner, then there will be long-term consequences. Like the consequences when they failed to accept the UN partition plan and like the consequences when they threatened to exterminate the Jewish nation in 1967. Nations around the world have stated that this announcement is the death knell to the peace process. I believe it’s the death knell to the assumption that appeasement will solve the peace process.
Third, this declaration is a sign to me of the hand of God. Who could have imagined that an American president would make such a declaration? Ever since Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, which formally recognized the city as the country’s capital, both Republican and Democratic presidents have not signed into law the bill, asserting that the Embassy Act could hinder the peace process. Judging by the world reaction to President Trump’s announcement, we can understand why. There was tremendous global pressure placed upon the US administration not to make this announcement and there was a sincere belief that this announcement would effectively end any chance for a sitting US president to define his legacy by finally bringing peace to the Middle East. I have wondered for years whether any president from either party would ever have the fortitude to side with a miniscule country in the face of such strong global opposition.
But now, perhaps a perfect storm has occurred. Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency can only be described as one of the most unpredictable events in the history of American politics. How could such an improbable event occur? I am reminded of a passage from Rav Soloveitchik’s famous essay, “Kol Dodi Dofek.” Then too, it was an alliance of unlikely partners which paved the way for the UN vote that established the modern day state of Israel. Rav Soloveitchik wrote:
“First, the knock of the Beloved was heard in the political arena. From the point of view of international relations, no one will deny that the rebirth of the State of Israel, in a political sense, was an almost supernatural occurrence. Both Russia and the Western nations supported the establishment of the State of Israel. This was perhaps the one resolution on which East and West concurred [during the Cold War era]. I am inclined to believe that the United Nations was especially created for this end — for the sake of fulfilling the mission that Divine Providence had placed upon it. It appears to me that one cannot point to any other concrete accomplishment on the part of the United Nations. Our Rabbis of blessed memory already expressed this view: At times rain falls on account of one individual and for one blade of grass (Breishit Rabbah 66:2).”
At this point, I don’t know what the future of President Trump’s presidency holds. I cannot know which congressional bills will be passed under his watch, or what will happen with regard to immigration reform, tax reform, healthcare reform, or so many other pending issues. But I do know that after a confluence of unlikely events led to his rise, Donald Trump did something that had seemed so improbable for so long. Perhaps in this moment, amid all the chaos on the national and international stage, the rain fell for Israel today. The knock of the Beloved was heard, and Jerusalem was that small blade of grass, finally gifted the recognition it has deserved for so long.