Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton met with Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday. Interestingly, Trump was with the Israeli prime minister for nearly ninety minutes, Clinton for less than an hour.
The Republican candidate obviously had more of substance to discuss with Netanyahu — the efficacy of security walls and their mutual distrust of the Iran nuclear deal being two obvious examples. For Hillary, the encounter was more of a quick check on her bucket list, and probably an uncomfortable one.
After his meeting, Trump’s people made clear that Donald had pledged that, if elected president, he would formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.
This has been a bone of contention (to put it mildly) from, we could almost say, time immemorial, because the Jewish claim on the city dates from at least the construction of Solomon’s temple, estimated to be 832 BCE. (Actually, there’s lots of earlier evidence of Jewish presence in Jerusalem, including the extensive excavations of David’s City, but I’m keeping it simple here.) Islam, currently occupying Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, has its origins in the beginning of the 7th century CE, over 1400 years after Solomon, and in Mecca and Medina (not Jerusalem). No one sane disputes this.
Several American presidential candidates — when running for office — have made pledges similar to Trump’s, then, upon election, basically reneged, usually by ignoring the situation or telling the Israelis to wait until the Palestinian question is resolved. That gave those presidents a fair amount of cover because it would take Solomon himself to tell us when that would be — and even in his case I’m not sure.
So it’s natural that Trump’s pledge would be met with some skepticism. On Twitter Sunday night, several Republican stalwarts attacked a tweet I had written in support of Trump on this matter, implying (or even stating) that I was promoting a lie. The candidate would never go forward with the recognition.
While I think these attacks were basically masked, last-ditch NeverTrumpism, this would be a significant decision on Trump’s part with great international ramifications and I owe my critics a bit longer response than I could give in 140-character tweets.
To begin with, Trump attended the meeting Sunday in the company of his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner — a real estate investor himself and publisher of The Observer who has emerged as one of Trump’s key advisers — is an Orthodox Jew and therefore takes the Jerusalem issue quite seriously, far more than almost any politician or political professional would. This could only signal to Netanyahu — and should to all of us — that Trump was not taking the meeting, or anything he said in it, lightly.
Yes, he could have been using Kushner as an emblem of some sort, but I suspect Kushner himself would have been unhappy about that. So I further suspect the reverse was true here. This was a gesture meant to say to the Israelis: I’m with you in the deepest sense. (Clinton was accompanied in her meeting by Jake Sullivan, who has been frequently besmirched by the email scandal.)
More importantly, Trump, not being a lifetime politician, would be the first president, basically ever, well-positioned to follow through on the pledge. He has never participated in the seemingly endless rounds of Middle East negotiations. The ins-and-out of the increasingly dubious Oslo Accords were not his doing. He can come to all of this fresh, with, let’s hope, common sense.
Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is just the kind of action I think Trump would enjoy taking because, after the initial brouhaha, everybody would realize that nothing really had changed. The facts on the ground would be the same, Israel would still be allowing Muslim worship at Al Aqsa, and the absurdity of Jerusalem not being recognized as the capital of Israel when it really is would be unmasked.
Most of all, it would be a sign that Western civilization is not prepared to give up its dominant role in the future of humanity — something, at this moment, that is sorely needed.
Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His most recent book is—I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already.