Israel is feeling very optimistic these days says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Why?
The U.S.A. president-elect, his nominated secretary of state, and Russia’s president seemingly like each other and him. Furthermore, the tiny state of Israel and many of her Arab neighbors are talking either openly with each other or more quietly in friendly tones.
Anyone who’d projected that a few years ago would have been deemed slightly mad. But here we are, and to some onlookers its looking like a real degree of peace could be just around the corner.
A few things have been happening out of the limelight and others might start to grab more of the world’s attention.
New Man, New Chapter
On matters of policy or protocol, the American president-elect has already demonstrated he won’t be as quick as his predecessors to accept the advice of the Central Intelligence Agency or State Department employees.
Right now that includes the status of Jerusalem.
Channel 2, an Israeli TV channel, Monday night reported that officials from Israel’s Foreign Ministry have been scouting possible U.S. embassy sites in there on behalf of the Trump transition team.
The Jerusalem Conundrum
On December 13th, Fox News reposted the same news item that Wall Street Journal (WSJ) subscribers had access to the day before. The headline read, “Trump sees moving US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as ‘big priority’.”
And it’s quite a big deal. Only Costa Rica and El Salvador previously had embassies in Jerusalem. All now are in Tel Aviv because of geo-politics tightly intertwined with religion.
The article pointed out that to relocate “would represent a major reversal of long-standing U.S. policy.”
“Congress has bristled at the executive branch’s refusal to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and in 1995 passed legislation requiring that the U.S. embassy be relocated there.
But the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy act allows the president to waive that order for six month periods for national security reasons, which presidents from both parties have consistently done since the law took effect.”
Jubilation in Israel
On Sunday December 11, 2016, the US TV show, 60 Minutes, aired Leslie Stahl’s interview with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The interview started with the prime minister’s statement,
“I know Donald Trump. I know him very well. His attitude, his support for Israel is very clear. He feels very warmly about the Jewish state, about the Jewish people … there is no question about that.”
But the Iranian deal is still a major sore point. The Israeli prime minister publically says he hates it. The American president-elect also criticized the deal. However, media sources say General James Mattis, the nominee for US Defense Secretary, has advised the president-elect against pulling out.
The prime minister told 60 Minutes,
“The only good thing I can say about the Iranian deal is that it brought the Arab states and Israel closer together … They no longer see Israel as the enemy but as their ally in the indispensable battle against the militant forces of Islam either those led by Iran, the Shiites, or those led by Daesh, ISIS.”
And the nation is using its technological breakthroughs for diplomacy. As 60 Minutes pointed out, countries in the UN who regularly use to vote against Israel are now it’s clients.
The state of Israel also has another very important ally in Russia. Some in Orthodox Judaism hope Russia is their friend as well.
The conservative Israel National News wrote, “less well-known is Putin’s support” for a 3rd temple. This claim was made in its November 15, 2016 article titled, “Sanhedrin to Trump-Putin: Fulfill Cyrus-like role in Jerusalem”.
The modern Sanhedrin, comprised of 71 Orthodox Jewish leaders in Israel said to represent a small segment of Israelis, sent a letter to both men challenging them to emulate the ancient leader, according to the Israel National News.
King Cyrus of Persia informed his subjects that “the Lord God of heaven” had charged the king with building Him “a house in Jerusalem” and then helped the Jews, previously conquered by Babylon, so the destroyed temple could be rebuilt.
The Alleged Remark
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made at least three official visits to Jerusalem.
Referring to the 2012 trip which included a stop at the Western or Wailing Wall, the Israel National News article states,
“At one point, an Israeli bystander called out in Russian, “Welcome, President Putin.” Putin then approached the man, who explained the importance of the Temple Mount and the Jewish Temple. Putin reportedly responded, “That’s exactly the reason I came here – to pray for the Temple to be built again.”
And, the Israel National News indicated that helped embolden the fledgling Sanhedrin to send the letter.
Note, while the story had been re-circulated on a number of Evangelical Christian sites and on a few Jewish sites, it was not picked up by Western news media. Nor has the quote been confirmed by President Putin or by anyone else who might have heard the exchange.
His discussion with representatives of Orthodox Judaism titled “Russian President Vladimir Putin Visits Western Wall” can be viewed on YouTube.
Another video shows he visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as well. President Putin’s press conference held afterwards in Jordan is also on YouTube and posted as “Putin talks about Wailing Wall in Jerusalem“. The video includes English subtitles.
If nothing else, it helps lend weight to the statement in the Israel National News,
“The political conditions today, in which the two most important national leaders in the world support the Jewish right to Jerusalem as their spiritual inheritance, is historically unprecedented.”
The Syrian civil war and ISIS caliphate dream may be fading away; but the Palestinian demands, Sunni Shiite rivalry and the Islam extremists war against everyone else are still very much with us. How Israel, America, Russia, and Europe now cope with these significant issues and the ongoing Jerusalem quandary will be interesting to watch.
One thing is sure; much more must change before man sees real peace in this region of the world.
Photo Credits: Jerusalem by Ryan Rodrick Beiler – Shutterstock; USA Pres. by Matt Johnson, License: CC BY-NC 2.0; Israel PM by Herve Cortinat/OECD; Russian Pres. courtesy of United Nations, Licenses: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Here is a related In the News article titled, “March 11, 2016 – Middle East”