Samantha Garelick, WHP Alum (LA 15)
I assessed President Trump’s Jerusalem announcement the way many of my close friends and colleagues did — on the basis of a question: Is this good or bad for peace?
As a proud Jew and a strong advocate for a two-state solution, I care deeply about the decisions Israel makes and their ramifications on the peace process.
I thought the Jerusalem proclamation would be another display of empty theatrics. But when I read the text itself, I realized something powerful had taken place: America had finally made official something Jews and non-Jews around the world know to be true. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital city.
Some of my most cherished memories and experiences in Israel are from Jerusalem. It is the epicenter of Jewish life: the direction in which we pray, and the place we yearn to return each year around the Passover table. It is a holy city — and an open city — for Jews and Christians and Muslims alike.
Whatever one may think about our president or his politics, his announcement — in truth — does nothing to alter that precious diversity.
And most important, when I read the text itself, I see no reason why the two-state solution is threatened as so many have presumed.
I encourage my friends and colleagues — skeptics and optimists alike — to examine the words. And if you can, to try divorcing message from messenger. The president’s statement has garnered significant controversy, but the words are what matter.
And when I read them, I am hopeful that America can both recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful capital while also leaving the door open to whatever outcome negotiations may deliver.
I believe this moment can be good for peace. And even if you aren’t ready to jump to the same conclusion, let’s recognize its historic importance. We shouldn’t rush to assume the worst.
Reuven Avital, WIF Alum (Class 6) – Ramat HaSharon, Israel
We consider Jerusalem, as a concept, as the capital of Israel and the Jewish people. However, the earthly Jerusalem, its city limits and population, is not recognized by the international community and, more importantly, by its neighbors.
What is our national interest?
Does the new declaration, its content and context, serve our national interest (set aside another question: does it serve the US interest?)?
Our national interest strives to live in peace with our neighbors in order to maintain a democratic Jewish state. If not a “peace agreement”, at least an “agreement” (הסדר) with the Palestinians, backed by Arab and Muslim countries, under which we separate ourselves and regroup into a democratic Jewish society with a relatively small Arab minority. Our physical security will be maintained by our military might and international backing and our civil society will be strengthened by the end of occupation.
Both sides are incapable of reaching an agreement on our own, so the international community, led by the US, plans to present a “Deal” that will be acceptable by both sides.
The declaration addresses one of the most sensitive issues in our dispute with the Palestinians and Muslim world, and possibly the Christian world. While seemingly advantageous to Israel with nothing for the other side, the declaration itself is flawed in several ways, such as:
Which Jerusalem: internationally recognized in the 1947 partition? 1949-1967? Present borders?
Exclusive or inclusive: is there room for a Palestinian capital too?
What about 300,000 Palestinians in present municipal borders without full civil rights?
Will the other side accept the declaration and the US as honest broker? LOL.
A similar declaration, delivered with the anticipated “Deal” in which both sides gain and compromise, would be much more helpful in pursuit of our national interest.
Talia Resin, WHP Alum (LA 15)
The President’s announcement was a significant moment for Israel that was long overdue. His statement was only an enforcement of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 that Congress passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital over 20 years ago. Every other country in the world has the right to designate its own capital – where the heads of its executive, legislative and judicial branches reside. The very fact that the United States, Israel’s closest ally, wouldn’t officially recognize it by signing a waiver every 6 months to keep its embassy in Tel Aviv, only served to fuel the Palestinians’ hope of one day going back to pre-1948 status and undermining Israel’s legitimacy on the world stage.
Just one year ago, in December 2016, the United Nations Security Council passed UN Resolution 2334, which denied the connection of the Jewish people to the holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. The US under the Obama Administration abstained, allowing the resolution to pass, marking a low point in the relationship between the US and Israel.
In January 2017, US Senate and House resolutions condemning UN Resolution 2334 were overwhelmingly supported on a bipartisan basis. President Trump’s statement last month on Jerusalem sent two important messages to the world. The first is that Israel is here to stay and efforts to delegitimize her will no longer be tolerated. The second is that Israel has America’s support and despite last December’s shameful moment at the UN, the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States remains strong.
President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital might actually motivate Palestinian leaders to come to the negotiating table as it removes any lingering doubt about Israel’s legitimacy and suggests that doing nothing to promote peace might leave them empty handed. For these reasons, I believe we should celebrate this recent development. Of all the countries in the world, the one and only Jewish state is the only country whose legitimacy is consistently challenged. We should be grateful for any and all efforts to end this unfair bias.
Ami Hersh, WGF Alum (Class 19) – New York, NY
When I speak with young children, I often teach about the difference between NEEDS and WANTS. In the morning blessings we thank God for giving us everything we NEED. I love asking kids to first make a list of things they NEED (food, basic clothing, shelter, etc.) and then make a list of their WANTS (chocolate, legos, video games, etc.) WANTS are important and nice to have, but NEEDS are a necessity.
The news today that President Trump plans to buck decades of US foreign policy, stand alone amongst the nations of the world, and recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel, has me thinking a lot about NEEDS vs. WANTS.
I feel at home in Jerusalem. I feel at ease as I walk the streets, visit friends, work and enjoy the beauty of the ancient and the modern. For Jews it is our historical and modern capital, towards which I pray each day. I very much WANT the President of my country to bring recognition to this reality. I WANT other world leaders to follow and allow Israel the same right as all other modern countries, to declare their own capital and have it recognized as such on the world stage.
More important than my WANTS are my NEEDS. I NEED to know that all people, Jews and Muslims alike, will be safe on the streets of Jerusalem. I NEED to know that peace is a possibility with our neighbors, and I fear that this decision will simply incite violence and divide all sides further apart. I NEED to know that the young soldiers I will soon interview for jobs in camp will not be put in harm’s way because of a campaign promise.
With all my heart I WANT Jerusalem to be undeniably recognized as the capital of Israel. But today, the NEEDS come first. Safety and the prospect of peace with our neighbors are NEEDS we must not neglect. I pray for the day our NEEDS are met and our WANTS can be realized. Mr. President, please shore up our NEEDS, before going after the WANTS.
Zoya Raynes, WHP Alum (New York RSJ 14)
The United States recognition of the reality of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a long overdue light of truth shining through decades of Arab and Muslim denial of history like a Chanukah candle lighting up a cold, dark night.
The timing of the announcement, so close to the holiday, whether planned that way or not, highlighted the deep historical and spiritual connections between the Jewish people and Jerusalem and particularly, the miracles at the Temple (Beit Hamikdash) that we sing about so poignantly in Ma’oz Tzur (Rock of Ages) as we lit our menorahs. Of course, all of this is in stark contrast to the decades of the grotesque denial of this history that still persists in the Muslim and Arab world including the PA’s past and present leadership.
In the political arena, despite reading a wide spectrum of Jewish and general media, I have still not seen a coherent argument for why the declaration, particularly as worded, prevents a future peace agreement that is widely accepted to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
There is no peace without justice we are told – but there is no justice without truth.
David M. Rosenberg, WGF Alum (Class 1) – Chicago, IL
For many Jews, President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the
capital of Israel has validated Israel’s sovereign choice and
strengthened its connection with the ancient capital of Kings David and
Solomon. In the midst of many expressions of gratitude, questions
linger, including these: 1) Since 1949, Israel has proudly considered
Jerusalem to be its capital, without feeling the need for the prior
approval of any nation. Why does Israel need such approval now? 2) And
if Israel feels it does need the approval of other nations, does it
benefit by receiving support for its claim to Jerusalem from a president
who frequently calls into question America’s commitment to allies
(think of NATO, Paris Climate Agreement, Trans-Pacific Partnership,
NAFTA)? As America becomes isolationist, does Israel not run the risk
of becoming increasingly isolated? There are, after all, other
countries in the world, some of them large, powerful, and influential.
Does Israel not run the risk of seeing its claim to Jerusalem actually
weakened by the President’s unilateral support?