In the waning days of 2017, an Israeli minister announced a plan to make a historic mistake—and it had to do with the seemingly anodyne matter of rail infrastructure. Yisrael Katz, the transportation minister, proposed to name a high-speed rail station planned for the Old City of Jerusalem for Donald Trump.
Katz said he wanted to name the proposed stop after Trump because of his “courageous and historic decision” to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Of course, Israel’s attachment to Jerusalem as its capital is understandable and profound. And much of Israeli public opinion supports Trump’s decision. But none of that means that it’s wise for the Israeli government to start lionizing Trump in the form of a permanent and public tribute.
At an emotional level, the urge to honor the man who honored this attachment to Jerusalem seems entirely understandable. I have had a keen attachment to Israel since I made my first of many trips there, as a teenager. I see the recreation of the Jewish nation in its ancestral homeland as one of the great stories of the past century, and I am deeply committed to Israel’s onward development as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital. But none of that means it is in Israel’s best interests for the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem now, crippling U.S. credibility as an honest broker in forging the settlement with the Palestinians that Israel still needs to escape its existential dilemma. Moreover, even if you believe that securing recognition for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is worth that cost, it’s another matter entirely to elevate the man who gave that recognition—when that man is Donald Trump.