The celebrations of 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem have been going on in that city since last month’s Jerusalem Day. This week, with the anniversary of the Six Day War on the secular calendar, there was another opportunity to think about the significance of Israel bringing the entire capital city under its control — a city which was the nation’s capital when King David conquered it some 3,000 years ago.
This past Sunday in New York City thousands turned out for the iconic Celebrate Israel Parade down Fifth Avenue. Streets were closed, traffic was snarled and spirits were high as the New York area Jewish community and many of its political and organizational leaders paid tribute to the State of Israel, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and cheered the strengthened bond between Israel and the United States.
The celebration came shortly after President Donald Trump signed a six-month waiver to keep the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv rather than move it to Jerusalem, as U.S. law has required since 1995. The waiver, which the White House was quick to characterize as a temporary measure, doesn’t so much break Trump’s promise “to move the American Embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” as delay the fulfillment of it — unless Trump follows the path of past presidents of both parties, who chose repeated waivers rather than order the move.
Not too long ago, it appeared that Trump’s approach to the embassy issue was going to be different. And his past moves to disrupt the status quo gave hope that he would actually deliver on his promise. But that was not to be — at least for now. Perhaps his decision is a reminder that celebrations, backslapping, great alliance speeches and parties are fun, but the cleanup is often messy, and the inevitable hangover is a real headache.
American policy before Trump has been to encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on the status of Jerusalem before the United States would move its embassy there. And for the sake of keeping U.S. allies in the Arab world happy in the fight against Iran and the Islamic State — a stated reason of Trump’s refusal last week to move the embassy — the waivers may continue. All of that may be a reflection of international political reality, but it also helps to make another important point.
The status of Jerusalem and the location of the U.S. embassy have very little to do with the U.S. commitment to the Jewish state. And invocation of waivers does not diminish Israel’s miraculous military accomplishment that brought renewed Jewish access to our holy sites in Jerusalem. But it is necessary for everyone in our community to understand that when push comes to shove, Israel and the Jewish people value Jerusalem more than any American president ever will.