The Manchester Arena and the Western Wall
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.