Not such a capital idea

Joseph Aaron

It’s important to do the right thing. It’s also important to do it the right way, for the right reasons.

I admit I’m kind of ambivalent about the idea of the United States recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On the one hand, yes, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and everybody knows it, whatever rhetoric they might use or political games they might play. And Jerusalem will always be the capital of Israel, no matter what peace arrangement is made, if one is ever made.

One of the most tiresome things about the Middle East and all the Middle East conflicts is all the baloney that comes out of the mouths of so many about so much. Hearing a leader speak the truth, hearing a leader say what he really feels is incredibly rare, if it happens at all.

And so part of me says yes let’s cut to the chase, let’s finally about one thing for one second accept reality and so yes officially recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

Of course, I felt the same about the Iraq war at the beginning, saying it’s about time we stopped tolerating insanity in the Middle East, crazy regimes led by crazy leaders and so yes let’s call Saddam what he is and go in there, get him out and set up a democracy so that the Arab world can see what one looks like. Well, we all know how that worked out.

And I felt the same about Trump in 2016, maybe we need someone who would just blow dysfunctional Washington up, say what no other politician has the guts to say, someone who followed no traditions, did things however his gut told him to, someone who would drain the filthy sick swamp that Washington is. Well, we all know how that worked out.

My point being that just because something is appealing due to its simplicity, feels like you are fixing things by making a dramatic gesture without worrying about any consequences, well, life doesn’t work that way. What seems like a big move that will make all things better almost always blows up in your face.

Sometimes there is a reason that things have always been done a certain way, sometimes there is a reason that everyone who knows what they are talking about warns you that there are a lot of reasons you can’t just do something.

There is a reason every single president, even those most supportive of Israel, did not recognize Jerusalem as the capital. There are lots of reasons those most expert in the region have advised against recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Unlike how the right wing Jews in this country and in Israel see it, no they did not do it out of hate of Israel but out of love, did not do it to stymie Israel but rather because they care about it and its future and what is in its long term interests, not what will give it a temporary sugar high and give some politicians something to crow about.

What I don’t like about what Trump did is that I am certain he did it without knowing what he was doing. I am very confident in saying he has no understanding about what the green line is, could not tell you anything about why Jerusalem is a contentious issue, has no idea how Israel regained control of Jerusalem, doesn’t understand how Jerusalem could be so precious to both Jews and  Palestinians, has no sense of how it affects the peace agreement he claims his genius son in law, the Jew Prince Jared, will be the first to deliver because, well he’s Jared and Jared is the guy Trump gave his precious daughter wife Ivanka to.

No, it is not good to do something when you have no idea what you are doing and no, it is not a good idea to do something when you have not given one second of thought to what its ramifications might be. Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel for one reason, to make his political base happy, which means votes and which means donations. There are 50 million evangelical Christians in the United States and Jerusalem being the capital of Israel is very important to them. In the last election, the vast majority of evangelicals, who claim to be G-d fearing, Bible loving people, overwhelmingly voted for the sexual harassing lying cheating egomaniacal Trump. And he wants to make sure they do so in 2020 and him doing what he did with Jerusalem pretty much guarantees they will vote for him again, no matter how much justice he obstructs.

And then we have Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul and king of American Jews. He has a lot of money and gave Trump and the Republicans a lot of it in 2016. Sheldon, who is more right wing than Bibi and more ignorant than Trump, really wanted Jerusalem to be recognized as the capital of Israel. And so what Sheldon wants, Trump delivered.

And so Trump did what he did not because he surveyed the Middle East situation, not because he saw it as an important strategic move that would further the peace process, but because it would make evangelicals and Sheldon happy. Period. And so he did it for the wrong reasons.

And please remember those of you Jews who so love how pro-Israel the evangelicals are, how pro-Israel Sheldon is, that the only reason the evangelicals are so pro-Israel is because they believe the Jews must be back in their homeland, must have their country, so that things can then proceed culminating in the return of Jesus. Meaning they are using us. It’s not that they love Jews, it’s that they need us to get what they really want. And remember please that if they get Jesus back, all Jews, no matter how right wing, will either have to convert to Christianity or be put to death. Some friends of ours, those evangelicals.

As for Sheldon, he has publicly said he doesn’t care if Israel is a democracy, if they have to stop being a democracy in order to avoid a two state solution, that’s peachy with him. Sheldon also started a daily newspaper in Israel that he gives out for free, and thus has been able to put out of business many of Israel’s other papers. Papers that are not rabidly pro Bibi as Sheldon’s is. Thus eliminating independent voices in Israel, another piece in Bibi’s increasingly autocratic ways. Some friend of ours, that Sheldon.

Trump did what he did despite being advised not to by his secretary of state Rex Tillerson, his secretary of defense Mad Dog Mattis and his national security advisor H.R. McMaster, people we are told over and over is the best national security team ever, people who really understand the world and what’s in America’s best interests. And they all have distinguished records of service, with Mattis and McMaster both being high ranking generals with tons of military and diplomatic experience.

They all told Trump it was a mistake to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And yet he ignored them, did it anyway. Because he didn’t care about the national security implications, he didn’t understand the national security implications. His base, evangelical voters, Sheldon money — that he understands.

And what also shows how insincere, cynical and ignorant Trump was in what he did, if he was going to recognize Jerusalem as the capital, why he did not immediately move the American embassy there? He could have done it. There is right now a beautiful American consulate just blocks from Bibi’s residence. Trump could have ordered the sign on the building changed to read ‘Embassy of the United States of America’ and it would have been done. Instead, the Trump administration said it would be four years until the embassy is in Jerusalem. Talk about playing games. Jerusalem is the capital but we’ll move the embassy there when we have a chance. Again doing things the wrong way.

And while I know that many Jews don’t trust the world, especially don’t trust the United Nations, I think it means something when virtually the entire world, virtually the entire United Nations is opposed to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

I find it very interesting that all those right wing Jews so thrilled by what Trump did were so thrilled they compared it in importance with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which Britain endorsed the concept of a homeland for the Jewish people; and with the United Nations vote in 1947 which endorsed the establishment of a Jewish state.

Well you can’t think those were such important occurrences and at the same time dismiss how the world and the UN reacted to Trump’s move. The Balfour Declaration was so vital because it meant one of the major countries of the world was behind a Jewish state. And the UN vote was so vital because it meant the body recognizing the countries of the world was calling for the establishment of a Jewish state.

If you think those things mattered, then you should see it matters that every major country on earth – Britain, France, Germany, Japan, China, Russia – announced they were opposed to what Trump did. And that in the UN, the Security Council voted 14-1 to condemn what Trump did and the General Assembly voted 128-9 to condemn what Trump did, with the seven countries, other than the US and Israel, in favor, being Guatemala, Honduras, Togo, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia — mostly tiny countries heavily dependent on American aid.

And if you attribute the countries being against to anti-Semitism, please note there was much more anti-Semitism in Britain in 1917 than in 2017, far more anti-Semitism among the nations of the world in 1947 than in 2017.

It matters that here’s the list of other countries that have followed Trump’s lead and announced they too are recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel: Guatemala. Yep, that’s it.

Finally, what tells me that this was not the right thing to do now is that it was amazing how little joy there was in the Jewish world about it. I was in Jerusalem the day Trump made his announcement and I can tell you there was no dancing in the streets, no spontaneous rallies, no outbreak of joy. And while yes, many American Jewish organizations did send out press releases, I didn’t see any major gatherings in any American Jewish community to celebrate, any rallies or parades or explosions of joy.

There certainly was the night of the UN vote in 1947. Indeed, my father would tell me how on that night he sat glued to his radio, following the UN proceedings, following each country’s vote, and when the total was announced, he said the Jews in his neighborhood erupted with cheers of joy.

You didn’t see that when Trump went on TV to do something he didn’t understand, something he did for the wrong reasons in the wrong way at the wrong time.

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