In the context of the Jerusalem Embassy opening on May 14, Israelis have mixed feelings about U.S. President Trump’s initiative that effectively recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Daniel Landau, a nursing student living in Rehovot, called Donald Trump “one of the greatest U.S. presidents and a great friend of Israel” for moving the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As a Trump supporter “since day one,” he voiced his confidence that Trump will always be supportive of Israel and lauded him for setting an example for the world. “We will soon see more countries follow because of his great leadership.”
Joel Haber and Daniella Berger, both American immigrants to Israel, welcomed the embassy move and argued that it corrects a historical injustice, despite opposing Trump’s presidency.
Haber, a tour guide, maintained that any government whose embassy is not in Jerusalem is “ignoring facts in favor of making political statements.”
“There is a universal definition of a capital as the seat of government, and Jerusalem is undeniably that for Israel, he said. “Embassies in every country in the world are always placed in the host country’s capital. Thus, any decision to put an embassy in any other Israeli city was a purely political decision.”
While Haber lauded Trump’s “courageous decision” to move the embassy to Jerusalem, he noted that “I still am not in favor of his presidency,” and finds it important to both criticize and credit the American president’s individual acts.
Similarly, Daniella Berger, informal and experiential educator, praised the United States for “making it clear that West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not negotiable” and for “fulfilling a promise from over 20 years ago that was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses of Congress.”
She added: “I still strongly dislike Trump and still believe that he is unfit to be president.” But she claimed that she sees no conflict between speaking out against “90 percent of Trump’s policy decisions, while still acknowledging the merit of this one action.”
Berger maintained that there should be no issue with hosting foreign embassies in West Jerusalem, which is part of sovereign Israel. “That does not mean that the Palestinians could not, in a future agreement, also have a capital in East Jerusalem,” she said, noting that the United States originally placed a consulate on Agron Street in the center of West Jerusalem, which also served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinian Authority.
“The hypocrisy of the previous refusal of U.S. presidents to locate their embassy to Israel in sovereign Israeli territory, while at the same time placing their mission to the P.A. in that same sovereign territory is astounding,” continued Berger.
Berger critiqued the misnomer of “recognizing” the capital of Israel, as “the U.S. does not have that power or right to recognize a capital; they simply acknowledged a fact that has existed on the ground for 70 years.”
‘Consequences and timing’
Sarah Perle Benazera, a Tel Aviv educator and dialogue facilitator, reported feeling “worried and incredibly helpless” by it all. As she explained: “Of course, Jerusalem is our capital, but given the fact that a two-state solution has almost disappeared, and that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have refused to meet for negotiations in years, I believe that the American decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem is reckless.”
She called Trump’s move “a slap in the face for every Palestinian, as diplomacy is the only way toward a creative and peaceful solutions, whereas unilateral decisions are like adding fuel to the fire.”
Trump’s move, she said, “shows a deep lack of understanding of the situation. It is naïve at best, and at worst, an open call for war, violence and death.”
Yaniv Rosenfeld Cohen, a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, related his opinion that the embassy move is an example of Trump’s “short-term thinking,” maintaining that “in our neighborhood of the Middle East, you must act quickly, but also think of consequences and timing.”
While Berger claimed that “the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is not a revolutionary policy change, and it did not blow up the Middle East like so many political pundits claimed it would,” Rosenfeld Cohen voiced his concern that “ ‘Jerusalem Day,’ the embassy move, ‘Nakba Day,’ unrest in Gaza and extreme tension on the northern border” could make for an unpredictable week.
Noted the student: “A third intifada isn’t worth moving the embassy in my eyes.” PJC