6,000 Miles Apart, Trump and Netanyahu Mark Hanukkah on Anniversary of Historic US Jerusalem Policy Shift

By Patrick Goodenough | December 6, 2018 | 6:51 PM EST

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lights the 5th Hanukkah candle with U.S. Ambassador David Friedman and Israeli soldiers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Screen capture: YouTube)

(CNSNews.com) – In two ceremonies 6,000 miles apart, President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday marked the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, each noting that the occasion fell a year to the day since Trump in a historic policy shift recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

That decision and the subsequent move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem were widely applauded in Israel and among supporters of Israel worldwide – and attracted strong opposition from the United Nations and other multilateral bodies.

At sunset in the Old City of Jerusalem, Netanyahu joined U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and a group of soldiers at the Western Wall, lighting the fifth Hanukkah candle. Hours later the Trumps and Pences hosted a celebration at the White House, with Jewish guests including eight survivors of the Holocaust.

“Exactly one year ago today, at my direction, the United States recognized the true capital of Israel,” Trump said, his words drowned out by enthusiastic applause.”

After describing the process of moving the embassy, the president said it had been an honor to do it on behalf of those he was addressing – particularly the Holocaust survivors, who flanked him as he spoke.

“It’s an honor to do it for all of you, I have to say,” he told them, “because that’s really who we’re doing it for.”

Hanukkah marks the rededication of the biblical Temple in Jerusalem after a Jewish revolt against a pagan kingdom, almost 2,200 years ago.

In that city earlier Thursday, Netanyahu thanked Trump and his administration for their “tremendous support” for the Jewish state.

He said the president’s decision last December “recognized history, he recognized truth – the fact that Jerusalem has been our capital, the capital of the Jewish people, for 3,000 years.”

Trump’s decision was “important not only for historical truth and for present-day truth,” Netanyahu said, but it was also important for peace.

Because, he continued, a peace that is “built on the slippery slopes of lies and slander will eventually crash on the rocks of Middle East realities.”

“You can only build peace on a foundation of truth, a solid rock of truth. It is here.”

In his remarks, Friedman also referred to “truth.”

He called Trump’s decision a year ago Israel’s “most significant political victory since the recognition of the State of Israel by Harry Truman on May 14, 1948.”

“The world has come to understand how America stands with its allies, how it does not flinch from its enemies,” Friedman said. “And how it no longer embraces a policy born of wishful thinking, but rather follows a policy based upon truth.”

President Trump greets survivors of the Holocaust during a Hanukkah celebration at the White House on Thursday, December 6, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Meters from where the ceremony took place, the Temple Mount is the site of the Temple first built by King Solomon some 3,000 years ago, as recounted in the Bible (2 Chronicles 3), and of the rebuilt one – the one in which Jesus taught – which was finally razed by the Romans in 70 AD.

The Temple Mount is the most revered site in Judaism – but is also home to two mosques, including Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest site.

Although the area has been under Israeli sovereignty since 1967 the nearest point where observant Jews are able to pray openly is the Western Wall, a remnant of a retaining wall on the western flank of the hilltop platform.

In his remarks there about “truth,” Netanyahu was alluding to efforts by the Palestinians and their allies to deny Jewish heritage in, and claims to, Jerusalem.

They have repeatedly promoted resolutions at the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO disputing or downplaying Jewish historic links to Israel, especially in Jerusalem and Hebron. The texts frequently refer to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall only by their Islamic names, and all have attacked Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

The Palestinians want Jerusalem as capital of a future independent state, and most of the international community does not recognize Israel’s claim to any of it.

Trump’s announcement last December, in keeping with a campaign pledge, met a longstanding requirement in U.S. law which presidents up to then had waived.

It prompted an angry response from many countries, and the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the decision and demanding that the move be rescinded.


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow