Other than the fact that most of the men in the room wore kippot, the breakfast meeting hosted on Monday by the Orthodox Union at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel seemed, for all intents and purposes, to be a Republican campaign rally.
The 300-plus people in the hotel’s banquet room applauded a video presentation that began with US President Donald Trump announcing America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. They then applauded members of the current American administration who were present.
The excitement was almost tangible when Trump said in the video that other presidents had promised in their campaign speeches to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, but had failed to deliver. “I am delivering,” he declared.
Since 1972, the OU has consistently advocated for the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
In both the video and in speeches made during the meeting, credit was given to two Democrats who were active in promoting this cause.
The first was former vice president Hubert Humphrey who, at a gala dinner in 1972 for NCSY – OU’s teen program of education and outreach – became the first presidential candidate to propose that the US recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That was the first step.
The second to receive credit was senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who introduced Jerusalem legislation beginning in 1983 and continuing until 1995. He fervently believed that America’s refusal to recognize Jerusalem as the capital was part of an attempt to delegitimize Israel.
There were other elected officials who took up the gauntlet, but Humphrey and Moynihan were the most active and the most vocal.
ALLEN FAGIN, OU’s Executive Vice President, welcomed Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Erica Jovel Polanco, saying to loud cheers: “We salute Guatemala for being the next embassy to move to Jerusalem.”
Fagin called for US ambassador David Friedman and his wife Tammy to come on stage presenting them with an Israeli- designed mezuza to put on the doorpost of the new official American Ambassador’s residence, where Friedman also has his office in Jerusalem.
Friedman said that he was fortunate to be the recipient of the outpouring of love and support from Jewish and Evangelical groups and individuals.
“None of this would have happened without the courage, vision and moral clarity of the President of the United States,” he declared.
Friedman paid tribute to Deputy Secretary of State John K. Sullivan, who is leading the transition with the support of National Security Advisor John Bolton, whom Friedman described as “one of Israel’s greatest supporters.”
Friedman added that he was gratified at the beginning of the campaign season that Trump, as he travels across America, is getting the biggest applause for moving the embassy. Americans everywhere are supporting the president’s decision, said Friedman.
“Even Americans not connected to Israel applaud the President’s decision. It’s the single most popular thing he’s done.”
Speaking not only as an American diplomat but also as a Jew, Friedman also said that: “When it comes to the State of Israel, we are not alone... We have great friends in the evangelicals.”
OU President Moishe Bane who, like Friedman, is a lawyer by profession, recalled that they had sometimes worked together and were not always on the same side. He was pleased that they currently are on the same side, and was thrilled that the US, “the beacon of liberty,” has recognized “Israel’s entitlement to Jerusalem.” Bane was hopeful that this will take Israel and the Jewish world to the next step in the rebuilding of the Temple.
PRESENTATIONS WERE also made to White House envoy Jason Greenblatt and to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. In the latter case, he received an ancient Jerusalem coin dating back to Roman times – further evidence of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
Mnuchin voiced his pride at serving in the Trump administration, saying that whereas Trump’s predecessors had signed a waiver against moving the embassy to Jerusalem citing national security reasons, Trump had decided that it was actually a national security priority to have the embassy in Jerusalem.
Mnuchin, referencing the US government’s decision to apply economic sanctions to terrorist organizations and rogue states, insisted that “they work.” He was delighted that in the same period of the US embassy move, Trump had announced America’s withdrawal from the deal with Iran. Until such time as there is a new agreement limiting nuclear weapons in Iran and other rogue states, “It’s the right thing, to do” he said. “It protects the United States, the region and the world.”
Quipping that he had been given the honor of unveiling the embassy plaque, Mnuchin said that he had been asked several times if he was sure that he knew how to do that. “I’ve been doing it at temple my whole life,” he noted.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the son of American immigrants, said that he has been asked by many interviewers what price Israel has to pay for the embassy move. “It used to be land for peace,” he said.
“Now there’s a new formula: peace for peace.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that “Trump is the Churchill of the 21st century.”
The decision to move the embassy “does justice to the State of Israel, to the Jewish People and to the city of Jerusalem, “said opposition leader Isaac Herzog, whose late father Chaim Herzog was the first military governor of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin, recalling how as a 19-year-old youth in the former Soviet Union he had been instrumental in reviving Jewish life in Kharkov, said that he had never imagined that 29 years later, he would be standing as a minister of the Israeli government on the verge of witnessing the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
“If you believe something enough, it will happen,” he said.
Former Chief Rabbi of Israel and Tel Aviv, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Israel’s most well-known child Holocaust survivor, was the person least surprised by Trump’s decision, recalling how the president’s dad, Fred Trump, had given a group of Holocaust survivors in Brooklyn land on which to build a synagogue.