We planned to use this space to illuminate troubling developments for Jews in Europe, from a proposed ban on infant circumcision in Iceland to a legislative assault on kosher slaughter in Poland.
Then President Donald Trump gave us a pleasant surprise.
The State Department announced Friday, Feb. 23, that the U.S. Embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Israel’s actual capital, Jerusalem, not at some indeterminate time in the future, but at a date certain, and an important one: May 14, less than three months away, as Israel celebrates its 70th birthday on the non-Jewish calendar.
The United States hasn’t picked a place for its embassy, but it will temporarily make space in the consulate in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona — not coincidentally on land that has been part of the Jewish state since 1948.
“We are excited about taking this historic step and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
The plan is for Ambassador David Friedman and a small staff to start working in the consulate, then to move into a new embassy annex in the Arnona complex by the end of 2019 — the most optimistic timeline we had envisioned for a Jerusalem embassy to open. The search goes on for the permanent location.
We had doubts that Trump would move the embassy before the next presidential election in 2020 — not because his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December was insincere, but because the relocation seemed a low priority on an agenda that gets more crowded all the time.
Needless to say, Israeli officials are ecstatic.
“On behalf of the entire government and people, I would like to thank President Trump for both his leadership and his friendship. President Trump, you are a great friend of the state of Israel, and we all thank you,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, citing “significant and historic long-range implications.”
U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon said the move “is a testament to the unbreakable alliance and true friendship between the U.S. and Israel,” and he called for all nations to follow the U.S. lead and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and the proper place for embassies.
We don’t expect many European nations to follow soon, although it’s the least some of them could do as penance for making Jews less welcome. Iceland’s proposal on circumcision — supposedly because it’s a human rights violation to cause infant boys a few moments of pain — and Poland’s latest move against kosher butchering — fresh off its passage of an on-hold law denying any Polish responsibility for Jewish suffering in the Holocaust and a series of official statements instead blaming the Jewish victims — are the less vicious but no less anti-Semitic companions to violence and vandalism against Jews in France, Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, etc.
It is a sad commentary on the direction of Europe little more than 70 years after the Holocaust that at the same time its nations are making Jewish life increasingly difficult, they show ever less willingness to accord Israel the privileges granted every other country.
Trump deserves praise for giving Israel the simple respect due a sovereign nation.