Hebrew media review

A recognition for the ages

Trump’s official acceptance of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has everyone talking, but some in the Hebrew-language media are worried about what the future may hold

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A picture taken on December 6, 2017, shows a giant US flag screened alongside Israel's national flag by the Jerusalem municipality on the walls of the Old City. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)
A picture taken on December 6, 2017, shows a giant US flag screened alongside Israel's national flag by the Jerusalem municipality on the walls of the Old City. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)

As one could expect, US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state is pretty much the main issue on most Israelis’ minds, and the Hebrew-language papers, echoing this sentiment, all dedicate major coverage to the unprecedented move.

Israel Hayom, the right-wing daily which all but officially endorsed Trump during the 2016 US presidential race, does not conceal its excitement over the declaration and thanks the leader of the free world outright for his announcement. “Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” announces the paper’s main headline. The word “Jerusalem,” aside from being spelled out in English rather than Hebrew, is also painted in red, white, and blue, and decorated with stars and stripes, in an apparent expression of gratitude to Trump. The daily labels the president’s speech on Jerusalem a “historic moment… celebrated in all Israel,” and notes, almost in passing, that Palestinian officials have referred to the move as “a declaration of war.”

No fewer than nine analysts and contributors discussing the recognition are featured on Israel Hayom’s front page, and all but one of them either explicitly or tacitly showers praise on Trump. “Written in the letters of eternity,” Israel Hayom’s editor Boaz Bismuth’s gushing headline reads. Bismuth, who has a tendency to insert his personal connection to topical issues into his reports and coverage, recalls how when he interviewed Trump ahead of the presidential election, the billionaire businessman vowed to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “Common sense displayed by the leader of the free world,” says Bismuth of that promise.

Much praise and excitement over Trump’s Jerusalem speech can be found in Yedioth Ahronoth as well, but other opinions and views are present too. While top Yedioth contributor Nahum Barnea, along with several others, refer to the declaration by the US president as “the right move,” Eitan Haber and Yoaz Hendel, both seasoned in covering military and security issues, voice some concern over the toll that the announcement may exact from the Israeli public in terms of Palestinian violence. Analyst Itamar Eichner goes a step further and labels the entire Trump-Jerusalem saga as “fake news.”

“Trump’s statement about the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem is a kind of test for the Palestinians,” Eichner posits. “If they react violently, Trump will argue that Israel is right and there is no partner [for peace]. On the other hand, if they respond moderately, the problem will be for [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu [to handle].” W

hat Eichner means when he says that the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is fake news, is “[b]ecause if President Trump had wanted to, he could have waved a hand and announced that the American Embassy was moving to a temporary residence in Jerusalem tomorrow, and that the office of Ambassador David Friedman would be located in the office of the US Consul General in West Jerusalem, inside the impressive building on Agron Street. That would illustrate more than a thousand words the seriousness of his intentions.”

But Eichner raises even more suspicions regarding Trump, asserting that he may have “made a great gesture toward Israel in preparation for the ultimate [peace] deal he is hatching, which will require painful concessions from Israel.” If that is true, Eichner continues, following Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, “who on the right would dare accuse the president of anti-Israel bias” when he pushes to advance a two-state solution.

Haaretz, unsurprisingly, is both much more cynical and much more critical when it comes to Trump’s intentions in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Carolina Landsman insists she has no qualms about shaking up the political arena, as Trump associates have suggested he is intentionally doing, in order to try a new approach to achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Landsman, however, adds that she is concerned about whether the US president is the right man for such a shakeup, and if he can truly bring about change.

Meanwhile, Nir Hasson speculates that the announcement will cause Palestinians to give up hope in the two-state solution, which will lead them in two different directions. On the one hand, Hasson writes, more terrorist attacks on Israelis and violent protests. On the other, much more integration within Israeli society, as the dream of a Palestinian state crumbles. “Then Israel will have to decide if it is willing to pay the price of a united Jerusalem: Handing citizenship to 320,000 Palestinians.”

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