Notwithstanding our considerable criticism of President Trump’s many and varied pronouncements, policies, tweets, and decrees, we think he got it right this time.
For seventy years the United Nations and the rest of the international community have considered Jerusalem (now, hold on to your hats) a corpus separatum (a separate body). With all due respect, we would suggest that this arcane and now meaningless designation, given the history of the region, has become an argumentum ad absurdum (when a belief leads to an obvious absurdity, then the belief is false).
Jerusalem is the seat of government of the State of Israel. That, by the way, is the only definition of a national capital. President Trump committed no calamity by stating the obvious. Jerusalem is where the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) is located, as is Israel’s Supreme Court, the offices of its Prime Ministers and Presidents. It is Israel’s seat of government—its capital. It is where dozens of other countries’ Presidents and Prime Ministers have come to address the Israeli people. It is where Egyptian President Anwar Sadat went to propose peace and where dozens of other heads of state have come to address the Israeli people, including three Presidents of the United States, and the Presidents of Turkey, India, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Parliament, Canada, France, Poland, Kenya, Ukraine, Croatia, to name just some of the heads of state who have come to Jerusalem to address the Israeli government and the Jewish nation’s people.
Now, ironically, seventy years ago when the State of Israel was created by the United Nations, Israel accepted (somewhat reluctantly) the designation of Jerusalem as a so-called corpus separatum. The Arab States didn’t. The Arab states rejected everything the United Nations codified including the notion of Israel at all, or of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum, or, for that matter, as an international city.
Instead, the entirety of Israel’s Arab neighbors went to war to destroy the new state and undo what the UN had promulgated. With that fateful decision by Israel’s Arab neighbors, all bets were off including Israel’s acceptance of her capital as a corpus separatum. But fate or, as some believe, divine providence, didn’t smile on the Arab world’s attempt to crush the infant State. Instead, the infant State prevailed and in the intervening years has developed into an incredibly strong, democratic, vibrant and stable nation.
It is worth remembering, however, that when the Arab league captured the old Jewish Quarter of the Old City during the fighting in 1947, they systematically destroyed and looted everything Jewish including fifty-eight synagogues. The Jordanian commander is quoted reporting, “For the first time in 1,000 years not a single Jew remains in the Jewish Quarter. Not a single building remains intact. This makes the Jews’ return here impossible.” The Hurva Synagogue, originally built in 1701 (about the time William Penn gave Pennsylvania its first constitution), was blown up by the Jordanian Arab Legion. During the years of Jordanian rule from 1947 until the six-day-war when Israel freed the old Jewish Quarter, a third of the Jewish Quarter’s buildings were demolished. All but one of the Jewish houses of worship in the Old City were destroyed. The synagogues were razed or pillaged and stripped. It is reported that their interiors were used as hen-houses or stables. So much for the corpus separatum.
We have read and listened to various correspondents and talking heads refer to President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as another Trump blunder and as not being in America’s interest. Why is it not in America’s interest? They say the decision will cause protests and bloodshed. Sadly, it already has. But it doesn’t take much at all to cause protest and bloodshed in this part of the world or wherever fanatics dwell. That is why, ten years ago, a benign cartoon in a Danish newspaper depicting the prophet Muhammad caused riots all over the world. More than 200 people died, and there were attacks on Danish and other European diplomatic missions. Churches and Christians were attacked, and a major international boycott was initiated. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen described the reaction to a newspaper’s cartoons as Denmark’s worst international relations incident since the Second World war.
We recognize that there are those public personalities and media representatives who will look at any pronouncement or decision made by President Trump as an opportunity to criticize him. That has become their mission. Lord knows we’ve done our share of criticizing. But those who are critical of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because of the likelihood of protest and violence or the alienation of some, if not most, Arab nations would have used that concern to justify rejecting Israel’s statehood in the first place.
President Harry Truman made the decision to recognize Israel seventy years ago in the face of total opposition by his own Arabist state department. George Marshall, our Secretary of State at the time, and one of the most revered Americans in the world was strongly opposed to Truman’s decision to recognize Israel at all. He felt we couldn’t antagonize 120 million Arabs over recognition of a tiny Jewish state in the former British Mandate, which was the successor to 400 hundred years of Ottoman rule. In fact, Secretary Marshall resigned over it. But President Truman was a far greater thinker than people gave him credit for at the time. He saw a bigger picture and had a greater sense of destiny.
Truman was correct then, and Trump is correct now.