Many of us learned last week of President Trump’s announced plans to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The move was not unforseen, as media coverage in the preceding week informed us to expect the decision; and Mr. Trump, himself, made the pledge during the presidential campaign last year.
The anticipated announcement consumed the media for days, as political and foreign policy experts weighed in on the consequences of the decision. I assume similar debates were held in the halls of leading Jewish organizations in Israel and the diaspora. Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is a big deal, and an organized response by the Jewish community is to be expected.
I had a chance to read the statement made by Jewish Federations of North America, which was subsequently reaffirmed by our own Greensboro Jewish Federation. Many of you, like me, also received a follow-up message from Rabbi Fred Guttman, who called the Trump administration’s decision “the right thing to do.”
“The right thing to do…” That phrase gave me considerable pause.
Do we know that this is really the right thing to do?
After a few days of deliberation and internal struggle, I found myself very much unsettled by the statements made by Jewish organizations and leaders in support of Mr. Trump’s decision. This includes our local Jewish institutions that speak for our community.
Having the benefit of a few days’ time to analyze the world’s reaction to the announcement, I am not at all convinced that the consequences are worth the “victory.”
Impact in Israel: Israeli society is divided, with many left-leaning figures and news outlets calling the move unwise. Palestinians in West Bank and Jerusalem fill the streets in protest, and are, predictably, met with riot control tactics. Four dead, so far, and dozens injured. In Gaza, Hamas is calling for another intifada. Rockets are, once again, flying across the Negev, and into the vicinity of Jewish city centers.
Impact on the US: US embassies world over are placed on high alert as protests erupt at their front gates. Allies in Europe and Middle East come out against the announcement, adding to increasing diplomatic isolation and signaling a waning ability to influence future world events.
From my perspective, it seems that Mr. Trump has offered us, the Jewish world, a poisoned apple. And it appears that we are all too happy to take a giant bite, even as we know that it is poisoned. As hopeful as the JFNA statement is about “a two-state future,” make no mistake – this puts a two-state solution farther out of reach, not closer.
Mr. Trump’s entire appeal is the permission for people to act on their own worst, tribalistic instincts. Isn’t that exactly what’s happening here?
What’s to be gained by swallowing hard and accepting Mr. Trump’s leadership on this issue? Are we not smarter and more principled than to fall for a charlatan’s tricks? Are we not better than this?
My 26-year history in this community informs my hope that we are. My experiences with my fellow Greensboro Jews – young and less-young, conservative and liberal, observant and not-so-much – tell me that we are.
Am I wrong?