I am of mixed mind regarding President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. From my internal Jewish perspective, I affirm Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. Jerusalem has been for thousands of years the symbolic center of the Jewish world. On a practical level, Israel’s Parliament (Knesset), the Prime Minister, and all major governmental branches are located there.
However, there is no question in my mind that Trump’s move will inflame the international world against Israel – and in particular the Arab World. This is not just because from an international legal perspective the status of Jerusalem is undetermined. The United States recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital shatters any belief that America is a neutral mediator of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. This move has great potential to destabilize any diplomatic efforts in the Middle East.
I know full well that the Middle East in general and Israel in particular is a highly charged environment. Everyday life proceeds and on the surface, as during my month there, one can go about one’s pursuits in a very safe environment. However, it can take very little to disrupt the region and thus Trump’s move may well ratchet up the possibility of an outbreak of hostilities both in Jerusalem and in the region.
In September 2000, Ariel Sharon who was at that time the leader of Israel’s opposition party visited the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and one of the holiest sites in Islam. Though legally Sharon had the right to do so, Palestinians viewed it as an act of provocation and hostility. Rioting broke out and many lost their lives during the course of the Second Intifada.
The president’s action reminds me of what Sharon did. It may be justified; however it reflects arrogance and a gross miscalculation of the consequences of one’s actions.
Let us “Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem. May those who love her be at peace.” (Psalm 122.6)