AN AERIAL view of the Old City of Jerusalem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Truly touching gestures of international proportions can be eclipsed by obsessive adherence to the minutiae of diplomatic protocol.
That’s what happened when someone in the White House insisted on bringing attention to the US’s anachronistic and unjust stand on the status of Jerusalem just hours after US President Barack Obama traveled halfway across the world to pay his respects to Shimon Peres and reiterate his strong affinity with the Jewish state.
The official transcript of Obama’s eulogy originally listed the ceremony as being held in “Jerusalem, Israel.” Six hours later, the White House sent out a corrected version of the transcript with the word “Israel” crossed out of the header. The White House did not even bother to reprint the eulogy without the word “Israel” so as to downplay the correction.
This refusal to recognize Jerusalem within any boundaries as the capital of Israel is in keeping with the official US position that has remained unchanged for nearly seven decades. Since the 1947 partition plan which established Jerusalem as a “corpus separatum” under a special international regime administered by the UN, the US has refused to acknowledge that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
Consecutive US administrations chose to ignore the fact that the Arab nations and the Palestinians rejected the partition plan and instead made the historic mistake of attempting to snuff out the fledgling Jewish state at birth. Thankfully, they failed and Israel ended the War of Independence with large sections of Jerusalem under its control.
In 1967 they tried again. Once again, not only did the Arab nations and the Palestinians fail to forcibly expel Jews from Jerusalem, they lost control of additional areas of Jerusalem.
Yet, the Arab nations and the Palestinians refuse to face up to the consequences of their own acts of violence. And the US, by refusing to recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel, is essentially strengthening this distorted narrative that claims the Palestinians are victims of Israeli aggression.
Obama has added to the confusion. In 2008, the section of the platform of the Democratic Party dealing with the policy of then-senator Barack Obama, read “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.” However, in 2012, when seeking reelection, Democrats removed the sentence, saying they wanted to spotlight other elements of Obama’s policy and that the platform should reflect a sitting president rather than a candidate for office.
But in September of that year, Obama and the Democrats backed down in the face of Republican criticism and Jewish lobbying efforts. The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, said that reinstating the declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel was made to “maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the president and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008.”
Obama might personally see Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But he has refrained from saying so. In his 2011 address to the UN General Assembly, for instance, Obama said that Jerusalem was one of the issues that “Israelis and Palestinians, not us... must reach agreement on.”
Walking around Jerusalem, a city that has flourished and grown beyond recognition for the betterment of both Jews and Arabs during the years it has been under Israel’s control, one is struck by the sheer absurdity of the position of the United States.
Both US presidential candidates need to make a pledge to amend America’s policy on Jerusalem and follow through when entering office. Past US presidential candidates have publicly supported recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel before being elected but have failed to change policy once elected.
Declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of the State of Israel does not preclude the possibility that parts of Jerusalem will also become the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Through direct negotiations, Israelis and Palestinians will decide, among other things, the exact borders of Jerusalem.
However, no matter what the outcome, parts of Jerusalem will remain under Israeli control and continue to constitute Israel’s capital.
The time has come for official US policy to reflect this simple fact.