Columns Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Was Trump right about Jerusalem?

Yes, it is possible that President Trump was right to declare that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel.

That is what some of the people I respect are saying. They are prompting me to re-visit and to re-think my own assumptions. 

First, my friend and colleague, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism. His liberal credentials are impeccable. 

This is what he recently wrote in Haaretz:

President Trump’s statement on Jerusalem was good for the peace camp.

The center and mainstream left in Israel understood this, while pro-Israel liberals and leftists in America did not.

This was not my initial reaction. As a peace advocate and a strong supporter of a two-state solution, I responded to Trump’s pronouncement on Israel’s capital the same way that I respond to virtually everything that the President says: negatively and dismissively…

Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel, whether the President of the United States says so or not. Nonetheless, it is comforting and gratifying when President Trump finally states what I know to be eternal and true.

 

Second, my friend and colleague, Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, spiritual leader of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City — and, like Rabbi Yoffie, a former executive director of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America. Likewise, a liberal.

We have yearned for Jerusalem for two millennia. It is the source of our strength, the place where our people was formed, where the Bible was written. Jews lived free and made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a thousand years. Our national existence changed the world and led to the creation of two other great faiths.

The world’s superpower finally did the right thing, and we opposed it – not on the principle, but on the “timing.” The timing? Now is the not the right time? Two thousand years later and it is still not the right time? As if there is a peace process that the Palestinians are committed to and pursuing with conviction.

Let me re-visit my own words, written in this column, two weeks ago.

First, I worried that the pronouncement would have provoked outbreaks of violence.

Except, the reactions were far less violent than I expected, and than they could have been.

Moreover, we would have had to consider the source.

Again, Eric Yoffie:

When Palestinians express their outrage and demand justice for Jerusalem, I can’t help wondering: Where was justice when Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas were claiming at the UN that Jews have no historical connection to the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, and indeed to all of Jerusalem?

Last Thursday in Istanbul, Abbas repeated this ugly and absurd claim at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Having insisted that Jerusalem’s holy sites belong only to Muslims and Christians, how much sympathy do they have a right to expect now?

Why are we concerned more about Trump’s proclaiming a truth, than about Palestinians proclaiming lies?

Second, I believed that President Trump made this proclamation to appease his Christian evangelical base.

In retrospect — if that was true, big deal. When he wants to appease that base, there are far, far worse and more dangerous things that he could do.

What about the United States’ position as an honest broker in the Israel-Palestinian dispute?

Here, I turn to my Israel education rebbe, Professor Ken Stein, of Emory University and the Center for Israel Education.

How do those who said he received nothing in return know what was promised privately to the US by the Israelis or by Arab states? When Jared Kusher was in Saudi Arabia a month ago, how do we know what was said then, before or after? The muted Saudi reaction to the Trump statement might be a tell-tale sign.

Translation: we do not know what is happening behind the scenes.

Further, Stein writes:

Trump said, “This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved…The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed by both sides… I call on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif.”

Yes, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

And, there might come a time when East Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state.

Finally, the words of my friend, the Zionist thinker, Gil Troy.

Those who mocked Republicans as the Party of No during Barack Obama’s presidency, should take any opportunity Trump offers to demonstrate that they oppose Trump on principle, not out of partisan pique…Jews, too, need some healing, and our love for Jerusalem has long united us.

Gil’s words chasten us.

Just because Trump is often wrong, does not mean that he is always wrong.

It also means that when we agree with the President on something, it is incumbent upon us to say so.

That is not only pragmatic; it is also Jewish. It is the mitzvah of hakarat ha-tov, mentioning the good that people can do.

If I choose to revisit what I have written, and to rethink those words, it would be true to the name of this column.

I am all about creating Martini Judaism — not only as a column, but also as an attitude.

Just as I want Jews to be shaken and stirred, I want to shake and stir my own thoughts, my own opinions, my own positions.

I would have it no other way.

 

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

26 Comments

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  • I think its a lot of rationalization for what is best described as an unnecessary and detrimental action by a president who lacks any kind of competency in his position.

  • If Kim Jong Il declares Albuquerque as the US Capital, would that make it so? I don’t get how this is our call at all.

  • What a waste of time on the part of the residents as the three religions involved are theologically and historically based on myths and embellishments. How very disturbing!

  • 1. The Bible (2 Chr. 6:6) says Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
    2. Trump said he agrees: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
    3. USA moves its embassy to Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
    4. Nothing else changes. Everybody goes home and eat a Big Mac.
    5. The End.

  • Earthly Jerusalem will never bring true peace to the Middle East, nor to the rest of the world, for that matter! Because of that, nothing else will change for the better!

    It is only God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Matthew 4:17) that will bring true peace to all, through the upcoming millennial reign of God’s son and Messiah (Matthew 3:16,17), Christ Jesus, its King (Isaiah 9:6,7). It will also put an end to all wicked ones on earth (Isaiah 11:1-5).

    That government is also expressed in another way by the apostle Paul:

    “But you have approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, HEAVENLY JERUSALEM, and myriads of angels (Hebrews 12:22).

  • to the author, we do not need to please you or anyone else. we only, need to please ELOHEEM.

  • Trump is saying to the Palestinians, “Screw you!” Do you think that will help the peace process? Do you think that the Muslims will see the United States government as an “honest broker”?

  • It’s not that Trump was wrong about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. It is that the announcement and policy change was completely unnecessary. I am far from as confident as the author is that Trump has some Nixonian “secret plan” to bring the parties together in peace. But if it happens, then hakarat hatov it will be.

  • If that Big Mac came without the cheese, would it still count? I think that’s how McDonald’s in Israel serves it, even the non-kosher ones.

  • To repeat, he is saying to the Palestinians, “Screw you!” Do you think this is going to help the peace process? A simple “yes” or “no” will suffice.

  • Because it is worth undermining US positions in the region and putting Israeli lives at risk? Um no. This was Trump being a bonehead to please his voting base at the expense of others.

  • “Nothing else changes. Everybody goes home and eat a Big Mac.”

    Except that we have undermined the US position in the Middle East, given Turkey and Russia greater influence in the region, reinvigorated Palestinian autocrats, and hurt our ability to defend our allies and fight IS.

    Nothing else changes? Who are you kidding?

  • As always, it takes time to process this stuff, this acknowledgment by the U.S. that what has always been Israel’s de facto capital really is. I think it just wasn’t talked about for fear of provoking another intifada. Well, at some point I suppose there will be one if Palestinians feel sufficiently embattled. But the Knesset, the President’s home and other government functions are in Jerusalem. We may not care for the man who declared the capital to be so, but it’s done. So what. What has changed? Certainly no minds. Except maybe Jeff’s.

  • Do you want to live in a world where tyrants force you to deny reality? …if you’re a leftist then you do.

  • 1. You don’t actually give a crap about Israel, Jews, or tyrants or reality. This is all about your self serving eschatology. You don’t care who is harmed in the process.

    2. There is no need for the action except to harm Israel and US interests in the Middle East.

    3. The declaration does nothing of value. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel whether Trump announced it or not. But moving the embassy there is unnecessary and boneheaded.

    4. Calling someone a leftist is not a rational response. To reactionary fools, any disagreement us suddenly equated with Stalinism

  • Salkin, I’m happy you’re recovering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, I hope others may follow your example! Trump isn’t the one I wanted to be president, but he’s the one the Electoral College chose — as such he needs to be opposed when he’s wrong, but just as much supported when he’s right.

    So when he does the right thing, rejoice! And don’t harp on his motives too much; leaving aside the difficulty of REALLY knowing why others act, a politician doing the right thing is surprising enough, demanding it be done for the right reason as well is to demand an Age of Miracles.

  • Though the announcement regarding Jerusalem did nothing toward creating a great deal for both the Jews and the Palestinians, what prohibits a great deal from happening is the continued confiscation of land both around Jerusalem and elsewhere.

    What does lead to a great deal for both is self-restraint on both sides. And instigating anger on either side sabotages that self-restraint. And it is through that perspective, one should look at the decision to make Jerusalem the capital.

  • Trump is putting past promises into action. Gee, another coal mine is cutting 500 jobs in Kentucky. Oh, a Carrier sent jobs overseas after Trump “saved” them. Let’s see… VA healthcare is still shitty, my Medicare and Social Security are about to take a hit from the latest corporate welfare check… should I keep going?
    BTW, your pal Trump is an admitted fraud.

  • Let me first say I don’t think Trump should have promised to mover the embassy. Although a new embassy in Jerusalem may never be built.

    Although so far no one has mentioned that Abbas, the Palestinian PM, said Jews lie and fabricate history and have no connection to Jerusalem.

  • I know this is a difficult position as a Jew to be put in. Do I care that many Palestinians are dying in war to keep their land or do they want to wipe our religion out?

  • Trump is one big fat disgusting pig. He brags about winning and he puts people down. The ignorant Americans love him. His rhetoric is loathsome. He is the worst President I have experienced in my lifetime. He is a LIAR.

  • The broken clock analogy is a good one. Even when Trump does the right thing, he does it for the wrong reasons. That being said, it was the right decision. Arab policy for 70 years, Palestinian or otherwise, has been based entirely on rejectionism. One can’t see Wonder Woman in Ramallah or anyplace else in the Arab world because Gal Gadot stars in it. Nasrallah in Lebanon is hysterical because the government there decided to allow the screening of The Post. The cause for the hysteria? Because Steven Spielberg made the film. And so on. This is infantile, and it’s just as infantile for the world to pretend for 70 years that Jerusalem isn’t the capital of Israel. Does it bring us closer to peace to pretend? It’s time this absurd bluff was called. Personally, I hope that one day East Jerusalem will be the capital of an independent Palestine. But engaging in fantasy does not bring that day any closer.

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