Polarizing president draws rare, broad Jewish support with Jerusalem declaration

Metroplex, US organizations applaud action

 President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Dec. 6 and has said he plans to move the embassy at some point.
President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Dec. 6 and has said he plans to move the embassy at some point.

By Sean Savage

It’s not often that the American Jewish community is united on issues pertaining to President Donald Trump, or on any political topics for that matter. But Trump’s Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his expression of the intent to move the U.S. embassy to that city drew widespread support from Jewish organizations, dovetailing with the expected backing of Christian Zionist groups.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella body for 50 national Jewish groups, said it is “gratified that its decades-long policy calling for U.S. recognition of Israel’s capital in Jerusalem has now been realized.”
Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, told JNS that Trump’s decision is a “victory for pluralism and religious freedom,” noting that Israel has allowed unfettered access to Christian and Muslim holy sites since it took full control of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Stern dismissed concerns that Trump’s Jerusalem decision may ignite regional violence.
“If this is going to cause mass violence, it is not the fault of the United States,” she said. “It is the fault of the Arab world, which has not even recognized pre-1967 Israel in their textbooks, but teaches that all of Israel, even pre-1967 Israel, will one day be ‘Palestine.’ ”

Local and national response

Several Metroplex Jewish leaders and organizations were eager to voice their support.
“Jewish history provides a shining example for all of us on how to tackle difficult issues,” Temple Emanu-El President Mike Simms and its clergy wrote in an email. “Then as now, it’s important for us to embrace difficult conversations and to strive to engage with those with whom we may disagree passionately, and with respect and civility for each other’s views and experiences.”
The Shearith Israel clergy wrote to its membership, “We celebrate this important step in the fulfillment of the promise and destiny of our holiest city — but it is only a step. We must never rest in our endeavor to unite these two Jerusalems — the Jerusalem of earth and the Jerusalem of heaven. We must continue to advocate for recognition of our ancient ties to our capital, but we must also rededicate ourselves to pursuing peace, to rejecting and preventing violence …”
The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County issued similar statements. The Dallas Federation’s statement read: “The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Jewish Federations of North America, our national organization which issued a similar statement earlier today, welcome this decision as it upholds our long-standing policy of encouraging recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We also welcome the affirmation by the President of a negotiated two-state future between the parties in which Israelis and Palestinians live side by side with secure and recognized borders.”
Congregation Ahavath Sholom Rabbi Andrew Bloom commented on Facebook, “It is time to rejoice upon the renewed recognition of Jerusalem’s importance and centrality to Israel. For thousands of years Jews around the world have claimed Jerusalem as their home, and now all of them can rest in the recognition that ‘The City of Gold’ is truly their/our own.”
American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris expressed hope that “other countries will value the clarity and wisdom of President Trump’s historic decision, and also recognize Jerusalem and relocate their embassies there.”
Harris also praised Trump for emphasizing in his Dec. 6 remarks that the announcement does not affect the role of the U.S. in navigating final status issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The administration’s commitment to advancing that peace process is most welcome,” said Harris.
Similarly, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the Jerusalem announcement as a “significant step that acknowledges reality” and urged the Trump administration to push forward in peace negotiations.
“We recognize that this is an enormously sensitive and volatile issue, and we call on the administration to implement this new policy in a careful and thoughtful manner in consultation with regional leaders,” said Marvin D. Nathan, ADL’s national chair, and Jonathan A. Greenblatt, its CEO.
Dallasite Lillian Pinkus, president of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, said Trump’s decision “is more than an important benchmark — it is a milestone that corrects a historical wrong.”
Yet some Jewish leaders, while recognizing the importance of the Jerusalem move, said the timing was not right.
Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said that although the U.S. embassy “should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” the Reform movement “cannot support (Trump’s) decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process. Additionally, any relocation of the American Embassy to West Jerusalem should be conceived and executed in the broader context reflecting Jerusalem’s status as a city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.”
Reconstructionist Jewish organizations said they are “concerned over the possible impacts of the timing and the unilateral manner of President Trump’s decision for the U.S. to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital outside the framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.”

‘Tough, ultimately correct’

Boris Zilberman, a deputy director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, called Trump’s announcement a “historic step in U.S.-Israel relations and an important affirmation of Israel’s international standing as a co-equal.”
“President Trump made a tough but ultimately correct decision,” Zilberman told JNS. “While the move of the embassy will not happen immediately, the Trump administration is moving to make the move a reality in the very near future as they select an appropriate site.
“A more secure Israel,” said Zilberman, “is better placed to make tough decisions in the peace process, something (PA) President (Mahmoud) Abbas would be wise to consider as he calibrates his response.”

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