by Moshe Feiglin
President Trump’s declaration is actually the completion of the Balfour Declaration one hundred years ago. One hundred years ago the British Foreign Minister Balfour together with British Prime Minister Lloyd George, declared that the time had come for the Jewish Nation to return home. Their land is the Land of Israel on both sides of the Jordan River, they said, and we, the British, who conquered the land from the Turks, call upon them to return to their land. This was the recognition of the nations of the world, recognition that was later endorsed at the San Remo Conference and by the League of Nations and received legal authorization. This was the announcement of the nations of the world that the Land of Israel belongs to the Nation of Israel.
What has Trump’s declaration done, one hundred years later? If the Balfour Declaration said that we have a physical connection with this Land, Trump’s declaration spoke of Jerusalem explicitly as Israel’s capital. This is a step forward from the physical to the metaphysical. Jerusalem’s message is understood around the world as a religious message. Jerusalem is G-d’s Holy City. The nation to whom this city belongs is the nation that heralds the word of G-d to the world.
There is certainly a metaphysical, religious statement here. It is immediately translated into a political meaning. The Moslem war over Jerusalem is over the question of who will herald the word of G-d – Yishmael or Yisrael. This is why Trump’s declaration has evoked such a violent response from the Moslem world.
We can be complete atheists, but the significance of the fact that we are Jews, the significance of our return to Zion, which is the Temple Mount, our basic identity is part and parcel of this message. The message of the Nation of Israel that emerges from Zion is the message of liberty under the wings of the One G-d, the perfection of the world in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Recognition by the world that Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish Nation connects us from the purely existential plane of Zionism to the dimension of destiny. There is no existence without destiny. Whoever thinks that they can exist here for the simple sake of existence, will not manage to exist.
President Trump’s declaration was very brave. We are not accustomed to politicians who insist on keeping their word, True, he did not move the embassy. He could have, for example, taken the ambassador from Tel Aviv and put him in Jerusalem. But it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the statement that America, the world’s superpower, recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
It is sad that the Israeli commentators are doing all they can to distort President Trump’s words and to imply that this declaration is nothing more than lip service that will be used to extract future concessions from Israel. The opposite is true. True, the speech did mention the two-state-solution. All that President Trump said about that was that if the two sides would agree upon a two-state-solutin, the US would go along with it. There were also other small items that were not music to my ears, but in the Balfour Declaration there were many more statements geared toward making it more palatable for the Moslems. Nevertheless, what remains of all those statements is the Jewish State. President Trump’s main declaration is the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and that is what will remain of it in the years to come.
Those who have a hard time understanding the positive importance of the Trump Declaration can simply look to our enemies; look at how the Islamic wakf darkened the Temple Mount, look how the Hamas in Gaza is going crazy, how Erdogan is reacting. From all of these and more you can understand how positive it is.
The word that President Trump repeated again and again in his speech is ‘reality’. He said that the reality is that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish Nation and that all he is doing is recognizing that reality. That is a very deep statement. We all want peace. But peace cannot exist outside of reality. There is no peace in illusions. Peace comes only by recognizing realty. President Trump said that for twenty years, the US has not recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and it has not brought peace. Why not? Because it was not acting within reality, but rather within all sorts of illusions. That is why Oslo did not bring peace. We were just fooling ourselves. Only actions based on the truth can bring peace.
What does all this mean for us? President Trump handed us a blank piece of paper. Jerusalem is yours, I recognize the reality, write on this paper whatever you want. Israel’s leadership can say: OK, so he made a declaration. Let us give it time to evaporate. We know how to deal with the existing reality with the tools that we have. We know how to keep talking about the two-state-solution while stalling. It will take years to build the embassy, it will not be during Trump’s term, so nothing really happened at all.
From my acquaintance with the Israeli leadership, that will be the direction. The Israeli leadership has never missed a historic opportunity to miss a historic opportunity. President Trump has created an opportunity for Israel’s leadership to start out on a new path. In all the interviews that I gave over the two days since the declaration, I gave an example of a practical step that Israel can take to infuse the declaration with practical meaning. I said that Israel must take the High Court, the Knesset, all the government offices – the entire Government District – and move it to the Old City or nearby. For years, the government has been selling western Jerusalem as Jerusalem, the rest of the world boycotts the Old City as Jerusalem, and we have essentially created a new Jerusalem. The Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, all the holy sites of Jerusalem have for all practical purposed been given to the Arabs.
Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin attempted to rectify this situation. He began to move government offices to the eastern part of Jerusalem. But if the Knesset, the High Court and the entire Government District moves to eastern Jerusalem, that will be the beginning of giving real significance to Trump’s declaration. It will say that the world can forget about dividing Jerusalem. It is the government’s responsibility to carry out this plan. It is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to implement it now. Will he do it? I will let you guess.
People have been asking me if I will be eating my hat. After all, I have said tens of times that Trump will not move the embassy to Jerusalem because Netanyahu is not interested in him doing so. Nobody will be happier than me if I have to eat my hat. I will be elated to say that I was mistaken.
However, I was right about Netanyahu. Trump’s declaration did not happen because of Netanyahu, but despite him. It happened because Trump wanted to keep his word. He was being pressured by his Evangelical voter base. Trump is already thinking about the next elections, and he wants to be perceived as a strong leader who keeps his word. That is what brought about his declaration.
Although I wasn’t mistaken about Netanyahu, I was mistaken about the strength of Trump’s power base. I really hope that I was wrong about the embassy move. President Trump can continue to sign the waiver. And if I am proven wrong and it all turns out to be Netanyahu’s pressure that brought on the declaration, I will gladly eat my hat.
Interestingly, the Balfour Declaration was motivated by religion. Foreign Minister Balfour and Prime Minister Lloyd George were both Bible believers, as opposed to much of the British government at that time. We see how religion and politics combined and influenced the establishment of the State of Israel. Now, as well, Trump’s declaration was motivated by religious influence. Although he is not particularly religious, his power base is very religious and this would not have happened without those religious motivations. That is why it is very important that Israel’s foreign relations and leadership will be led by people who are capable of understanding these processes, who can contain the message of Jerusalem and who can translate it to practical policy. You cannot lead this country as if it were a meteorite that fell out of the sky into the wrong place. it simply doesn’t work.