We celebrated Yom Yerushalayim with Hallel and thanksgiving, with joy and dancing. Sadly, during the rest of the year the unification of Jerusalem is more on paper than it is a real fact. Construction in the city is frozen, its Moslem citizens are taught in school to become “shahidim” and Holocaust deniers, and they refuse to accept the Jewish heritage on the Temple Mount. At the same time, the Moslem Waqf is unopposed as it destroys Jewish archeological evidence, and the law of the land is not enforced in the eastern sections of the city. In spite of the very significant law of unification of Jerusalem, for fifty years the city has witnessed many more dramatic declarations than it has seen actions taken by the government.
President Trump’s visit in Jerusalem (which has not yet taken place as I write these lines) requires us to hold a serious discussion about the significance of the declarations and symbols related to Jerusalem as opposed to establishing facts on the ground and fashioning reality, especially in view of our desire that the United States should recognize the city as the capital of Israel and move its embassy there.
Since there are political, security, and ethical restraints, it is necessary to establish priorities and preferences. If we assume that political reality does not release us from having to pay a price for our decisions and does not allow us to act freely exactly as we would want to, the only path open to us is to search for the best way to fulfill our vision at the lowest possible price, in such a way that the benefit will outweigh the cost.
Defining the Vision
Every path that exists on the way to fulfilling our vision of Jerusalem has both benefits and shortcomings.
Symbols and declarations are beneficial in defining our vision, in setting goals, and in implementing the values that are at the basis of the vision, as opposed to our Moslem enemies and those from among the other nations who despise us and boycott us. Declarations provide a benefit as a way of strengthening our internal support and gaining support among our friends among the Jews and in the Western World in general. It is best that our struggles against the Arab World and the rest of the world will remain at the level of declarations and not taking real action. The main disadvantage of such an approach is that it is hard to change reality and to establish hard diplomatic facts using only declarations and symbols.
Taking Hold of Reality
On the other hand, a method based on establishing facts on the ground has benefits in that it has real consequences that are hard to ignore. There is a natural tendency to accept established facts, and it is relatively easy to defend established facts on the ground. The weakness of such an approach is the fear of the heavy price which we might find it difficult to pay, because of diplomatic isolation, harsh decisions of the UN Security Council that might even lead to sanctions, a deepening of existing boycotts, a loss of support among our friends in the world, and pressure by the United States – all of which might harm our interests.
If we assume that our friends around the world, including the United States, operate in their contacts with the Arab countries and the other countries which oppose us in line with their own diplomatic and economic interests, for this approach too we must choose which is the best front line for our struggles: Is it the matter of symbols and declarations – like moving the embassy to Jerusalem – or is it the matter of facts on the ground – like unfettered building in all sections of Jerusalem, putting emphasis on the eastern areas?
We must recognize that the United States will not be able to operate in both ways at the same time. If anything, it might just skip making any decisions at all.
We must begin by making our own decision. What do we choose? What path will we try to convince President Trump to follow? It goes without saying that a lack of a decision on our part is the worst possible alternative, since that would demonstrate a lack of leadership and a serious diplomatic and security lapse, leading to serious harm in our ability to achieve the vision of Jerusalem.
The Correct Proportion: 75/25
We should learn to operate in a way that is based 75% on establishing facts on the ground and 25% on an attempt to make use of symbols, declarations, and ceremonies. In Jerusalem we must make a clear decision to control the facts. The fact is that we are building Jewish neighborhoods in the eastern parts of the city. Nobody in the world, not even the Palestinians, demand that we abandon these areas when peace will be achieved. Remember the diplomatic struggle surrounding the construction of the area of Chomat Shmuel (what was originally called Har Chomah). But now the neighborhood exists, and today not one Palestinian demands that it be evacuated. The same will be true after we build a new neighborhood in the area of “Giv’at Hamatos” and expand all the other Jewish areas in the eastern sections. Widespread construction is as necessary as oxygen in order to establish a solid Jewish majority in the city, to strengthen it economically, and to convince the whole world that Jerusalem is indeed the capital of our country.
King David wrote, “Jerusalem which is built up will be a city that has been joined together” [Tehillim 122:3]. Read this in a very straightforward way. There is a link between construction and joining together. Building up Jerusalem will unify it. Construction is the key and the basic ingredient for unification. We will unify the city by building there.