Greenblatt has good intentions, the problem is the gap between his intentions and his abilities: Had he arrived a week ago, when it might have still been possible to contain the Temple Mount metal detector crisis and find a way for everyone to get off their high horses, he might have succeeded. Now, he is arriving with a diplomatic fire extinguisher after the diplomatic fire has already gotten out of control.
The White House rushed to clarify that US President Donald Trump was “closely following unfolding events in the region.” Really? Trump’s official schedule on Sunday was empty (after all, it’s his day off). Apart from visiting his golf course in Virginia as the crisis in Amman began unfolding, no unusual activity was reported. And that’s okay. As we all remember, former President Barack Obama liked playing golf too. But when an Egyptian mob stormed the Israeli Embassy building in Cairo six years ago, he preferred to be at the White House and personally handle the crisis. After receiving an urgent phone call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was crying out for help, Obama didn’t go to sleep. Instead, he telephoned General Tantawi in Cairo and stayed up all night to supervise the Israeli diplomats’ rescue. Netanyahu had a good reason to praise him for that.
The fact that the president’s Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, supervised the mediation efforts from afar was not very encouraging either: On Monday, he was forced to meet with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to explain why he had met with Russian representatives during the election campaign. So with all his goodwill, Kushner was much busier trying to escape an indictment that could send him to a federal prison than trying to help rescue Israelis from Jordan.
Israeli officials used to call Obama naïve and Secretary of State Kerry messianic. I wonder what they would say about Kerry’s successor, Rex Tillerson, who is pleading the Fifth when it comes to Israel. If anyone can remember the last time Tillerson said anything about Israel or showed an interest, they had better update the guys at the Foreign Ministry, because as far as they’re concerned, he has gone AWOL.
It’s true that Obama and Kerry pressured us, sometimes too much. But at least they showed an interest. Every single spark at the Temple Mount could set the entire Middle East on fire. Obama and Kerry knew that and went out of their way to prevent it. Trump’s deafening silence indicates not only that he doesn’t know that, but he doesn’t really care either.
Netanyahu was so happy when Obama left the White House, but at least he had someone to call during moments of crisis like this. It’s possible he did pick up the phone and call Trump on Sunday, but I’m not sure he had anyone to talk to this time. Judging from the president’s hectic activity on Twitter, it seems he had better things to do.
Dr. Yoav Fromer teaches politics and American history at Tel Aviv University.