From Washington to Jerusalem
Violence marred the transfer of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv on Monday, but the ceremony was more excuse than cause. The Palestinians from Hamas who protested along the Gaza border with Israel were continuing their eternal war against the existence of the Jewish state more than they care about where America puts its diplomats.
The transfer of the U.S. Embassy had been promised by multiple Presidents and American politicians over decades, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The difference is that Donald Trump fulfilled his campaign promise. No less a Trump critic than New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, proved the point Monday.
“In a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.”
What he didn’t say is that while Mr. Schumer talked up his legislation at fund-raising time, he muted his support during the Obama years. The embassy would never have moved without Mr. Trump’s willingness to defy political convention.
The embassy transfer is also a symbolic reaffirmation of U.S. support for Israel. Ties between the two countries frayed during President Obama’s two terms, as Mr. Obama made concluding a nuclear deal with Iran his top—really, his only—Middle East priority. One of Mr. Trump’s projects has been to restore better relations with U.S. allies, and in the Middle East that has meant Israel and the Sunni Arabs in Egypt and on the Arabian peninsula.
This is already paying dividends in confronting Iran’s attempt to build an anti-Israel front in Syria with missiles and Hezbollah militia on the northern Israeli border. Israel struck back hard last week at Iranian positions in Syria after Iran launched missiles toward the Golan Heights. The missiles were intercepted, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the provocation to do significant damage to Iranian bases.
The U.S. issued full-throated support for the Israeli strikes. Iran now has to think twice about the risks it is willing to take in Syria and the Middle East, knowing that Mr. Trump has Israel’s back. This U.S. support for its friends has also helped to improve ties, albeit quietly and behind the scenes, between the Sunni Arab states and Israel against their common enemy of an imperial Iran.
As for peace in Palestine, that won’t happen until the Palestinians decide that Israel isn’t going away. This year marks the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding, and its flourishing into a prosperous democracy is one of the miracles of the last century. Its success is due to the spirit and courage of Israelis and the stalwart backing of the United States.
On Tuesday the Palestinians will celebrate this anniversary with the holiday they call Nakba Day, or the Catastrophe. As long as this bitterness animates Palestinian society, its suffering will continue no matter where the U.S. locates its embassy.