The first rule of intelligence work is that there are no coincidences. A horrifying terror attack at a pop concert Monday night at the Manchester Arena followed by hours the first-ever visit by a sitting American president to the Western Wall of the ancient Temple at Jerusalem. We do not know except in generic terms who bombed the children and teenagers who gathered to hear Ariana Grande, but we knew the message: “We will murder your children.” It is a message designed not only to terrify but to horrify. We do not know either what occasioned the timing of the atrocity, But we know how large looms Jerusalem in the civilizational war of our times.
The importance of President Trump’s visit to the Western Wall–in Hebrew, the Kotel–cannot be overestimated. Even though the United States announced the visit as a personal rather than an official one, and even though Israeli officials were excluded from the visit, the image of an American president standing in awe before the embodiment of the three-thousand-year Jewish presence in Jerusalem was a diplomatic gesture on the grand scale. It came on the eve of Israel’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the unification of its ancient capital during the Six-Day War of 1967. While the president of the United States touched the ancient stones in reverence, his Jewish daughter Ivanka prayed a few meters away at the women’s section.
With this gesture, President Trump buried years of diplomatic maneuvering to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple, which is a synecdoche for the Jewish presence in the Holy Land. Jerusalem is the tipping point for American diplomacy. Last December 23 the outgoing Obama administration refused to veto UN Resolution 2334, which called Israel’s presence in East Jerusalem an illegal settlement. The decisive phrase, which America’s veto had suppressed until then, referred to “Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem,” including the Western Wall. Israel rightly regarded Obama’s abstention as a stab in the back.
Two months earlier, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution that airbrushed away the entire Jewish connection to Jerusalem, in obeisance to Arab claims that no Jewish Temple ever existed in the city. Throughout 2015, a wave of paranoia spread through the Muslim world with rumors that Israel planned to seize control of part of the Temple Mount and turn one of the Moslem mosques built atop the Temple ruins into a synagogue.
President Trump has not acted on his campaign promise to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and to move Israel’s embassy there, but his Kotel visit sent an electrifying message to the Muslim world: America stands by Israel’s 3,000 -year claim to its ancient capital. In stark contrast to the Obama administration, President Trump repudiated years of Muslim diplomacy focused on the sole objective of evicting the Jews from their holiest site. He did so after telling Muslim leaders assembled in Riyadh that it was their responsibility to extirpate the terrorists from their mosques, communities and countries.
The Manchester bombing well may have been radical Islam’s first response. Through Islam’s religious lens, the Temple Mount embodies Jewish sovereignty, and the Jewish return to Zion challenges the supersession of Islam itself. Did not the Jews and Christians pervert and falsify the original revelation given to them by Allah, and did not Mohammed restore this true revelation as dictated to him by the Archangel Gabriel? Have not the Jews lived as dhimmi in abject humiliation and dependence, as living evidence of the truth of Islam and as punishment for their perversion of the true revelation?
Jewish preeminence in arms, science, technology and business humiliates the Muslim world: How is it possible that a few million Jews could defeat the armies of 300 million Arabs in war after war since Israel’s founding in 1947? Innumerable conspiracy theories that blame American imperialism circulated to make sense of this. Parts of the Arab world are reconciled to the permanent presence of Israel, notably the Egyptian government (although not necessarily the Egyptian street). But Arab hope has not died that the existence of the State of Israel is a temporary aberration that will be erased like the Crusader state that persisted from 1090 to 1291. All the bad things that happened to the Arabs, in this vision, will one day come untrue.
As long as the Jews cannot enforce their claim to Jerusalem and to the site of the ancient Temple, much of the Muslim world believes, their presence can be regarded as temporary, and the humiliation as tolerable–a punishment from Allah for insufficient devotion to Mohammed’s revelation. Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem is not compatible with the prejudice that Israel has been replaced as God’s people. That is why Jerusalem has been the wedge issue in Mideast diplomacy for the past several years, and why President Trump’s presence at the Kotel represents such a dramatic change.
If the Manchester atrocity responded to Trump’s actions in Jerusalem as well as Riyadh, why attack England rather than the United States? An attack on America in response to a well-received and popular intervention by an American president would galvanize American opinion behind Trump. But the British are squishy. Britain voted for Resolution 2334 while America abstained, to appease its large Muslim population and to foster its residual influence in the Muslim world. France and Russia also voted for 2334, and all of Western Europe supported it.
Postmodern Europe has long since abandoned religion; to profess faith in a personal God is prima facie evidence of mental defect among the European elite. Europe thinks the Muslims are crazy, to be sure, but there are a lot of them, and the path of least resistance is to mollify them. Why should we suffer for the religious delusions of the Jews?, the Europeans ask themselves. The Manchester bombing, I surmise, is an attack on the soft underbelly of the West, whereas a frontal attack on the United States would elicit a decisive response. The Europeans, who want to manage their long, sickening decline without too much trouble, tend to blame Israeli intransigence for their problems. If only Israel were more like Denmark or Luxembourg, the Europeans tell themselves, none of these terrible things would be happening. The appeaser hopes the crocodile will eat him last.
Postmodern America–the America of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, of campus speech codes and safe spaces and progressive virtue-signalling–agrees with the Europeans. So does the shrinking, isolated Israeli left. But most of America senses an existential bond with the State of Israel; in contrast to Europe, where Israel ranks next to Iran as the world’s least-regarded country, Americans support Israel against the Arabs by a margin of more than 4:1. America’s sense of identity is imprinted with the image of Israel.
Barack Obama appeased the terrorists, most abjectly Iran. Donald Trump declared war on them and came in person in an unprecedented action to stand by Israel. We should not forget that this is a war, and we are in its early stages.