Yesterday’s massive reception in Jerusalem at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs in honor of the visiting delegation from the U.S., here to help inaugurate the new American embassy in Jerusalem later today, was a celebration of new heights in U.S.-Israel relations reached under the Trump-Netanyahu partnership. Not only were the speeches rendered — by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin — mutually supportive, but there were moments of candid camaraderi, such as when the prime minister recognized White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, saying that he has known him for “105 years and there is a special bond between our families” — that must convince any observer that this is no normal diplomatic relationship based solely on state interests, but one that bores down to the kishkes of both governments.
The relocation of the embassy to Israel’s capital should give Israel’s enemies (Iran and Hezbollah) and detractors (the EU and U.N.) good reason for conjecture about what coordinated steps they might face as they continue to threaten joint Israeli-U.S. strategic interests.
The relief felt by most Israelis who have carried the 70-year old burden of this unique boycott by the international community against its capital and other hurtful diplomatic anomalies was reflected in the words of Netanyahu, who set the tone for the event:
“I call on all countries to join the U.S. in moving their embassies to Jerusalem. Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it’s the right thing to do…Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it advances peace, and that’s because you can’t base peace on a foundation of lies. You base peace on the foundations of truth, and the truth is that not only has Jerusalem been the capital of the Jewish people for millennia and the capital of our state from its inception, the truth is that under any peace agreement you could possibly imagine, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital.
It took President Trump, a President Trump to enunciate this simple, basic truth. And once enunciated, that truth will propagate…
And to achieve peace, we have to do one other thing: We must confront the enemies of peace, and I thank President Trump for his decision to confront Iran rather than to appease it…With all due respect to those sitting in European capitals, we here in the capitals of the Middle East — in Jerusalem, in Riyadh and elsewhere — we’ve seen the disastrous consequences of the Iran deal. And so when President Trump decides to pull out of this deal, to walk away from it, we know that when he walks away from a bad deal, he’s doing a good thing for our region, for the United States and for the world.”
While the U.S. will not be alone in Jerusalem — Guatemala will reopen its embassy here on Wednesday (after opening its embassy in Jerusalem in 1959 and moving it to Tel Aviv about 20 years later) and Paraguay will relocate next week — a signal that the going will still be tough, which was reflected in the dearth of foreign ambassadors who accepted the Foreign Ministry’s invitation to honor Israel and the U.S. with their presence at the reception. Of EU states, only Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic — three countries that blocked an EU draft resolution condemning the U.S. move — and Austria were present, alongside a number of African and Latin American states. Even countries famous for their friendship with Israel such as Germany, Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus — the latter two who held their fourth summit with Netanyahu just last week in Nicosia — stayed demonstratively at arm’s length.
Besides the upbeat atmosphere of the whole affair — that included a great performance of Naomi Shemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold” by an Ethiopian vocalist and ended with Netta Barzilai’s winning Eurovision song “Toy” — the reception engendered particular pride for me and anyone affiliated with B’nai B’rith. A special exhibit on former U.S. President Harry Truman was displayed in the expansive reception hall. Guests were able to view the pen used to sign the de jure recognition of the State of Israel, which occurred on January 31, 1949. They were also able to view the famous photograph from that occasion showing Truman with the only three invited guests: B’nai B’rith President Frank Goldman, B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Maurice Bisgyer and B’nai B’rith Kansas City member Eddie Jacobson.
It was Jacobson — Truman’s WWI comrade-in-arms and lifelong confidant — who, acting at the request of Goldman, successfully appealed to the president to meet with World Zionist Organization President Dr. Chaim Weizmann when the State Department was lobbying Truman to rescind U.S. support for the U.N. Partition Plan in favor of a U.N. mandate over “Palestine.” This was anathema to the Zionists who viewed this looming threat as the possible end to the Zionist endeavor of the creation of a sovereign Jewish state. Truman agreed to see the ailing Weizmann — who was ushered in through the back door of the White House secretly, and lodged at a hotel under the alias “Frank Goldman” — and his impassioned appeal to the president to maintain U.S. support for partition won the day.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Alan Schneider is the director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, which serves as the hub of B'nai B'rith International activities in Israel. The World Center is the key link between Israel and B'nai B'rith members and supporters around the world. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
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