Hours after President Donald Trump broke with two decades of American foreign policy and officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — he also called for the U.S. Embassy in Israel to be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although the move is expected to take years — Pittsburgh resident Abby Schachter was among the many Jewish community members Wednesday who praised the president.
“I’m thrilled,” said Schachter, a former Chronicle columnist. “The embassy should have been moved a long time ago. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and will always be the capital of Israel and it’s good that the U.S. is finally behaving that way.”
But Melissa Haviv, an Israeli citizen who lives in Pittsburgh, was not so sure. “As Israelis, I don’t think we need the U.S. to acknowledge the capital of Jerusalem. I don’t understand how it will benefit the region at this time.”
Jon Tucker called the decision a “bold move,” but worried about what may follow. Trump “is carrying through with his campaign promise,” he said. “My concern is that the law of unintended consequences may be operative. It may drive everybody to the table with a new imperative, on the other hand it may drive the parties apart.”
Trump could not only imperil continued dialogue and progress in the region, but violence could ensue, as well, added Haviv. “It scares me. I know that our neighbors are not going to take it sitting down.”
Indeed, while Trump’s announcement was met largely with applause from Jewish organizations — although some, including J Street, criticized the move as needlessly endangering the chances for achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of Jerusalem as a future capital — American allies in Europe and the Middle East decried the new policy. A day later, Palestinians had embarked on one of several “days of rage,” with violence escalating in Gaza and in cities in the West Bank.
Apart from the possibility of inciting violence, Trump’s comments signal other factors at play, said Joshua Friedman. “The announcement about Jerusalem is 1) a distraction from everything else going on within this administration; 2) will be portrayed as something that Jewish Americans pushed for; and 3) will change the nexus of the impending World War III to Jerusalem and not the Korean peninsula.”
Malke Frank, a Chronicle board member who is active with the local chapter of J Street, agreed with those critical of the president.
“It was very disturbing to listen to Trump’s remarks. They were directed mainly to his American audience — evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews, and far right Jewish donors, such as Sheldon Adelson, all of whose support he still needs — and contrary to the opinion of a majority of Jewish Americans,” she said.
For her part, Schachter was dismissive of those who saw Israeli-Palestinian peace as now in greater jeopardy.
“What’s the connection between this and the peace process?” she said. “The problems with the peace process have” always existed. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.