Forget the Russia investigation, sexual harassment scandals, appointment of a Supreme Court justice or even the damage caused by wildfires and hurricanes this year.
The most consequential occurrence of 2017 took place Dec. 6 – just in time for this week’s Jewish Festival of Lights – when America formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
President Trump’s declaration was about 70 years overdue. American presidents have promised to recognize Jerusalem during their campaign bids, but haven’t. Trump promised, and did. As a result, shock, outrage, riots and marches ensued. Despite the fallout, Trump did the right thing.
While many Americans agree with the Arab rage, they forget the big picture. The modern state of Israel, in the works before World War II began, is the direct result of the Holocaust, in which Nazi Germany exterminated 6 million Jews. The state of Israel was a “final solution” of sorts by the international community, and a place of refuge for the perennially persecuted Jewish people. The land of Israel has a 3,000-year Jewish history. And the logical place for its capital is Jerusalem, where the seat of ancient Jewish government stood and where its foundation, the Temple Mount, still stands today.
I understand the inclination to question why Trump would stir the already perilous waters of the Middle East. Is he inciting hatred against Israelis and Americans? Is he ignorant of potential peace-process consequences? Does he even want peace? I don’t know his motivations, but I do know I like his willingness to stand up for what’s right. And what’s right in this case is standing by the Jewish people, who have a homeland they can call their own, where Jerusalem is the appropriate seat of government.
I studied abroad in Jerusalem in 1995 and went back in 1998 for a few months as a volunteer at an organization that helped Jewish immigrants, mostly those fleeing Russian persecution. The hot topic back in the 1990s was the Oslo accords, which primarily clamped down on expansion of Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank as a concession for peace with the Palestinians.
Well, we all know 25 years on that those peace accords have fizzled. Palestinian Muslims (let us not forget there are Palestinian Christians, too) insist that Jerusalem is their rightful capital and that the Jews are imposters. And, for them, this is why America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is such an obstacle to the peace process. They want Jerusalem, too.
While there’s no denying Jews’ historical claim to Jerusalem, the reality on the ground proves Jerusalem is already Israel’s capital. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament building, is in Jerusalem. The prime minister resides there. The Supreme Court of Israel is there. The United States also has a consulate near the Knesset building (and will move its embassy there). Other nations have consulates in Jerusalem, as well.
So, Jerusalem is already Israel’s operating capital, and Trump just confirmed the obvious. Why it took America 70 years is a question for future generations to judge.
While the formal recognition simply confirms reality, what is truly amazing is our president’s willingness to defy peer pressure and stand up for what he believes. Trump is a strong man – not in an authoritarian way, as many on the left warn, but in his style of leadership. For decades, on this issue at least, America has caved to peer pressure and gone along with what the Muslim nations wanted. No more.
Trump’s stand reminds me of the John Cougar Mellencamp song lyric: “You’ve gotta stand right up for something, or you’re gonna fall for anything.” For years we’ve fallen for the argument saying we shouldn’t risk riling the Muslim-dominated Middle East just to make a political point. Well, this is not a political point. It’s a matter of recognizing the wishes of the Jewish people, who lost 6 million members not too long ago and have been harassed by their Arab neighbors since Israel was established in 1948.
Wars, rockets, bombings, shootings – the Jews have put up with a lot. I’m proud to live in a country that recognizes their plight. Eighteen of the 21 Arab League nations don’t even recognize Israel’s right to exist as a country, let alone with Jerusalem as its capital. America, by denying the Jerusalem-as-capital issue, has enabled the anti-Israel cause in hopes it would bring peace. And it hasn’t.
The Jews’ Nazi exterminators sought a 1,000-year reign. That effort, thankfully, was derailed by the fighting men of America, Great Britain and Russia. I hope the Israeli people enjoy a 1,000-year reign over Jerusalem with the backing of nations like America that are willing to stand up for their historical claims – both ancient and modern.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.