Jerusalem has, for the last several thousand years, been the holiest city in Jerusalem. Last week, Israelis celebrated Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day – the day in 1967 when the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem from Arab rule, reuniting the city and opening its holy places to all who wish to visit them.
For 45 years, Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel. And yet the position of the United States government remains that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel. That position was clarified in March 2012 by a State Department official, Victoria Nuland, who refused to say that Jerusalem was a part of Israel at all:
QUESTION: Is it the State Department’s position that Jerusalem is not part of Israel?
NULAND: You know that our position on Jerusalem has not changed …. With regard to our Jerusalem policy, it’s a permanent-status issue. It’s got to be resolved through the negotiations between the parties.
QUESTION: Is it the view of the – of the United States that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, notwithstanding the question about the embassy – the location of the US embassy?
NULAND: We are not going to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem.
This is asinine for several reasons. First, it is an on-the-ground fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Belfast may be a disputed city in Ireland, but nobody challenges the fact that it is the capital of Ireland. Denying that Jerusalem is a part of Israel is denying that Israel has any right to defend itself at all, or that even the portion of Jerusalem not liberated in 1967 is Jewish territory.
Second, the US position actually undercuts Israel’s ability to negotiate. Land-for-peace negotiations have been a dismal failure – the last twenty years have proved that the Oslo strategy of appeasement was destined for disaster from the start. But if land-for-peace were going to work, as Los Angeles Jewish Journal publisher David Suissa has pointed out, the Arabs would have to see Israel as making valuable concessions, not disowning territory to which they never had a right. Peace negotiations must be based on both sides giving up legitimate claims. If I steal your car, we don’t negotiate for its return – I owe you a car. But if I own a car and I trade it to you for cash, that’s a negotiation that may be successful. The same holds true with land.
Leaving aside the practicalities of why the United States should acknowledge that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is the moral imperative here. Israel’s legitimacy did not spring from a UN resolution (rejected by the Arabs, accepted by the Jews); it did not come from the British Mandate (which allowed settlements throughout Israel, Judea and Samaria, and even Jordan). It came from the Jews’ eternal ties to the land of Israel. If Jerusalem is not a part of Israel, neither is Haifa or Tel Aviv.
And yet the State Department maintains that Jerusalem isn’t a part of Israel. Which means that, effectively speaking, Israel has no claim to any part of the land. If Israel is a creation of the UN, it can be uncreated; if Israel is a holdover of colonial British administration, the left’s hatred of colonialism demands Israel’s extermination.
President Obama seems to buy into this. That’s why in Cairo, he suggested that Israel had been created because of the Holocaust – a leftist and Arabist conceit that implies that Israel’s creation is artificial, a pity party for the Jews.
Jerusalem is central to the Jewish claim to Israel. Denying the legitimacy of that claim, as the State Department does, ignores history, reality, and morality. But that’s what the State Department does on a regular basis. Should we really be surprised?
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