It is amazing to me that no US President has before visited the Old City. I had read and studied the conflict for years before I went, but only standing there did I understand the close scale and what was at stake. The "pre-1967 borders" of which you hear so much would require yielding up the Old City, including the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and -- of moment to Christians -- the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

For Christians, it may well be enough that the city is controlled by those who will protect the sites and permit access to pilgrims. We have seen the Taliban and others destroy heritage sites of other religions in order to establish the primacy of their own faith; but actual control may not be of special importance if protection is guaranteed. Muslims also care about the preservation of their shrines. The Iranians use the protection of special Shi'a shrines in Syria and Iraq as a major focus of their recruiting of local militias who will serve as reliable proxy forces. But the Muslims also assert a physical claim more boldly: the Old City's Muslim quarter is closed to non-Muslims lacking special permission. As a practical matter they do rely on the Israelis to protect their shrines, but it is clear that the Muslims of Jerusalem do not trust any outsider to do it: not even to pass nearby.

For Jews, though, Jerusalem has another importance. Go up on the Mount of Olives, within sight of Jerusalem's Old City and another place that would have to be surrendered. Gethsemane lies between the Old City and the Mount of Olives. The mount is chiefly a graveyard. Thousands of years of Jewish graves are there. For a people whose whole history has been marked by exile, Jerusalem is the one place that is truly home.

You can appreciate all that intellectually from afar, but it takes on a new clarity when you go and see it. All Presidents should go there, at least the ones who intend to meddle in this conflict.


Ymar Sakar said...

The US has been engaged in defense contracts with Israel almost from the very beginning of Israel's return from exile. Although the exile is still going on as only 2/12 tribes may be considered to be back.

douglas said...

Kudos to the Secret Service (and theire foreign counterparts with whom they had to work) for pulling this off. Can you imagine being the guy in the Secret Service who gets told '...and the President will be visiting the Saudi's where there will be a sabre dance with dozens of Saudi royals wielding swords, and he'll walk through the old city for an extended period when in Jerusalem...'. What a security nightmare!

douglas said...

Oh, and as a real estate developer, I think Trump is the one to see what you describe and understand what it really means better than you might expect your average politician to.