Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Trump delivers a sorely needed dose of reality therapy

Dec. 6, 2017, will be forever remembered as a day when a historic wrong had been righted.

His long-awaited speech drew praise from both sides of the aisle from our Florida Congressional representatives Congressman Brian Mast (R-Fla.) called it a “day of celebration” and warned that “for groups like Hamas, this is just another excuse to cause violence and destruction that proves they are not ready to negotiate peace.” His sentiment was echoed by fellow Republican Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), who lauded President Trump for is decision, after “the Obama administration worked furiously [last December] to engineer a U.N. resolution so anti-Israel that it characterized the Western Wall as ‘occupied’ territory.”

Meanwhile, Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) issued a joint statement with Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), highlighting again the profoundly bipartisan nature of the decision. The two Floridians stated that the announcement “is a recognition of existing U.S. law that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the U.S. embassy should ultimately be located in the capital.” The pair added: “There is no debate that the Jewish people have a deep-rooted religious, cultural and historic tie to Jerusalem, and today’s decision reaffirms that connection.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also threw his support behind the move. “I commend President Trump for following U.S. law and recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel,” he noted. “The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which Congress passed during the Clinton administration,” he continued, “requires the United States not only to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but also to eventually move the American embassy to Jerusalem.”

With his landmark speech, the president accomplished something remarkable—he brought some sorely needed reality therapy to the Palestinians.

Trump honored a bipartisan commitment made over 20 years ago—a policy reaffirmed by the Senate in June of this year, when lawmakers declared that “Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel” by a 90-0 vote.

Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, and finally, after 2,000 years, we have come home to our ancient homeland, where we are no longer passive agents in history, but free and active participants in determining our history. Yet Israel has been the one nation in the world that, up until Dec. 6, had been denied the freedom to choose its own capital and have it recognized by the international community, and to have the nations of the world respect and honor that decision.

Of the 190 nations with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations, up until this week, Israel had been the only one whose capital had lacked recognition from America.

Contrary to what some of the State Department types have argued, this is not a concession to Israel. This is American law, and has been so since 1995. Yes, prior presidents have taken advantage of a presidential waiver in the law, arguing that it is “not the right time.” 

According to these stale State Department types, it is never the right time. 

They argue that it will “destroy the peace process.” One might ask, “What peace process?”

The truth is that there has not been any peace process to speak of for at least a year. The latest round of official Israeli-Palestinian talks, held from 2013-2014, broke down under Secretary of State John Kerry because the Palestinian Authority (PA) refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, stated in December 2016 that recognizing Israel for what it is, a Jewish state, was “unacceptable.”

If Trump’s statement is going to cause mass violence, it is not the fault of the U.S. nor of Israel. It is the fault of the Palestinians, who have not even recognized pre-1967 Israel in their textbooks, who teach that all of pre-1967 Israel will one day become “Palestine,” and who have television programs indoctrinating children that Haifa, Tel Aviv, and west Jerusalem will all someday be theirs.

On Nov. 29, 1947, prior to President Harry Truman recognizing Israel at the United Nations, people had told Truman that the recognition would only lead to mass rioting. What would have happened if Truman had listened?

The Arabs and Palestinians have always used the threat of violence as a negotiating tool. The longer we cower to the threat of violence, the more we reinforce that as a legitimate tool of negotiations.

Either we have a policy and a law, or we do not. We should not change our policies to appease the most violent participants on the world stage. It simply does not work, but rather begets more violence. 

By using appeasement, we do not gain the respect of the international community, nor of the Muslim and Arab world. As Osama bin Laden had said, “When someone sees a weak horse, and a strong horse, it is natural to bet on the strong horse.”

Those who argue otherwise are engaging in what the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan called the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” They are simply being patronizing to the Palestinians.

What message does that send to the Palestinian leadership when there are government spokesmen around the globe saying that we expect the Palestinians to engage in violence? We are giving them a pretense for violence and bloodshed, which eventually becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The Palestinians need to learn that no matter what dangerous illusions of conquest they are teaching their children, Israel will never cede its capital of Jerusalem—not after 3,000 years of history.

And they need to learn, once and for all, that Israel is here to stay.

In this way, Trump’s Dec. 6 speech was a sorely needed dose of reality therapy for the Palestinians. 

Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), which describes itself as an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.


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