Before his plane even touched down in Israel Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson managed to insult the people of Israel — and Jews worldwide — by referring to Tel Aviv as the “home of Judaism.”
On the flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel, during a Q & A session with reporters, Tillerson commented: “On to the second stop, Tel Aviv, home of Judaism.”
Tel Aviv is not the home of Judaism. Though a popular tourist destination and the centerpiece of Israel’s bustling entrepreneurial environment, Tel Aviv does not have the religious significance that Jerusalem has. Jerusalem is home to the holiest sites in Judaism.
Tillerson had no government experience before becoming secretary of state, and his lack of basic knowledge on geopolitical issues has acted as a detriment to the Trump administration’s foreign policy.
During his conversation with reporters, Tillerson, refused to recognize that the holiest site in Jerusalem is part of Israel. The Western Wall is “in Jerusalem,” Tillerson told reporters, stating the obvious geographic fact, but refusing to note Israel’s sovereignty over it.
The secretary of state has been perhaps the most hostile Trump cabinet member to the Jewish state.
Last week, Tillerson appeared to renege on the administration’s campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Instead of recognizing Israel’s sovereign capital, Tillerson used the embassy dilemma as a bargaining chip for a future “peace initiative” with the Palestinians.
"Well, the president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have," Tillerson said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” last week.
His hostile comments generated a response from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who reminded the world that Jerusalem is indeed Israel’s capital, and that not recognizing it empowers radical extremists.
During the NBC interview, Tillerson referred to a nonexistent “Palestine,” instead of correctly stating that there are Palestinian territories — not an independent state of Palestine.
Tillerson’s State Department refuses to even recognize that Israel has a claim to Jerusalem, its capital city.
“Since 1948, every administration has taken the official position that no state has sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians,” a State Department official told Conservative Review last week.
Secretary of State Tillerson is reportedly part of a contingent that is advising President Trump not to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The former oil executive is very friendly with the Arab regimes in the Middle East, particularly the autocracies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.
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