As the President of the United States declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, the various players had expected reactions. Many in Israel cheered, Arab Nations jeered, but really nothing has changed. The President officially recognized the de facto situation; Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. However, peace had not been advancing between parties and it seems unlikely this declaration does anything to move it forward. The two sides remain filled with mistrust of the other and neither is willing to budge from their respective recalcitrant positions. The status quo remains. Jerusalem, the City of Peace, sadly is not at peace.
We welcome Shabbat singing Lecha Dodi. In this mystical song-poem, Jerusalem is anthropomorphized; we prayerfully exhort that she shakes off the dust and embarrassment of a world that has forsaken what she represents to Jews and to humanity. I sing those verses with an ambivalent heavy heart every Friday night, struggling with why peace has not yet come to the place where God dwelled.
Jerusalem remains a city divided and in a state of unrest. Sadly, she is unable to bring unity to her people Israel, or to brothers and sisters who also share a vision of belonging. She is mine, but she belongs to others too. Jerusalem, The City of Peace still remains an elusive dream. An outside declaration or moving an embassy changes nothing. Only the will of those who truly seek her can realize the dream that Jerusalem is a holy center for humankind and the aspiration of peace on earth.
As I reflect on the first month of the new President, it appears clear that the arc of the presidency is shifting. The Founding Fathers were deeply concerned about an Imperial President and created checks and balances to help prevent the Presidency from devolving into a Sovereign. However, a combination of the Legislative branch ceding power to the Executive and a desire for decisive quick action has undermined the traditional process of lawmaking and enforcement. Debates have long raged over the creep towards an Imperial President. These debates have become increasingly political, accusing our Presidents of becoming imperious in the use and abuse of power. Now we appear to have arrived at a new tipping point; the Presidency is imperiled.
Erratic behavior, divisive language, pronouncements without an apparent understanding of the complexities of issues have led to a situation where the President risks marginalizing himself and his office. The Congress is potentially poised to fill the void and assume a position of primacy, provided a strong leadership can restore healthy debate and a cohesive vision for the nation. This is no small feat, but Mr. Ryan, the Speaker of the House, and Mr. McConnell, the Majority Leader of the Senate, could reassert the power of the Legislative Branch of Government.
The President must put forth a unified strategic vision that goes beyond provincial nationalism. His design needs to embody our core values including liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness, domestic tranquility. The President’s leadership must also protect and include all Americans. These priorities must also reconcile with our place as the leader of the free world. If the President is unable or incapable of fulfilling these responsibilities, legitimate power will shift to those who are capable, lest our system risk irreversible damage and decline. A government of, by and for the people must preserve, protect and defend us from adversaries both foreign and domestic.
It is our obligation to our nation and ourselves to demand no less. Too much hangs in the balance.