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Letters to the Editor: Place for embassy
Place for embassy

With regard to “Jerusalem, Israel” (Editorial, November 11), it should be noted that the issue of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is more complex than meets the eye.

So long as Jerusalem was divided, Israel strove for US (and international) recognition of its sector of the city as being part of sovereign Israel. With unification in 1967, Israel’s quest became that the entire city be recognized as its united capital.

In 1980, the Knesset passed a law declaring Jerusalem “complete and united” and “the capital of Israel.” The US Congress, in its Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, under the heading “Timetable,” stated the policy of the United States to be that Jerusalem should remain an undivided city, it should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel, and that the US Embassy should be established there.

If president-elect Donald Trump acts on the basis of the 1995 law and transfers the embassy to Israel’s united capital of Jerusalem, there would be cause for applause. But if the embassy is transferred merely to west Jerusalem, the implication could be the reverse of what Israel desires. It could imply that east Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, has a different status.

The writer is a professor emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he chaired the Department of American Studies in the Faculty of Humanities, and is author of Jerusalem in America’s Foreign Policy.

Your editorial sets forth the various issues relating to moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. They include Congress’s 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act and the fact that past US administrations have refused to implement the law because “the balance of powers set forth in the US Constitution empowers the executive branch with authority over foreign policy.”

In other words, it has been the policy of US administrations to consider that they have absolute power in the area of foreign policy. However, in law and in democratic constitutional countries, there is no absolute power. Rather, the exercise of power must be reasonable.

US administration policy on this has been unreasonable and incorrect, which is not noted in the editorial.

It is not reasonable because in all the other nations with which the US has bilateral relations, the US Embassy has always been in the capital. Moreover, there is the Jerusalem Embassy Act.

In addition, US constitutional scholar David Adler, in The Constitution and the Conduct of American Foreign Policy, states that despite an “unmistakable trend of executive domination” in the past six decades, the “blueprint” of the US Constitution “assigns to Congress senior status in a partnership with the president for the purpose of conducting foreign policy.” He adds that this is “evidenced by specific, unambiguous textual language, almost undisputed arguments by framers and ratifiers, and by logical-structural inferences from the doctrine of separation of powers.”

In the final analysis, it is clear that the US has a responsibility to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

We look forward to this move under the new administration.


President-elect Donald Trump’s stated intention to move the US Embassy to Israel’s eternal capital is delicious – and this goes beyond mere foreign policy.

Think about the next election.

Will the increasingly anti-Israel Democratic Party campaign on a platform that includes moving the embassy out of Jerusalem? More important, what would American Jewish organizations say? They might beg the Democrats to save them from such a choice, but when kicked in the teeth, let’s see if they are more Jewish or more Democrat.


Who is ‘mainstream’?

Nothing is more revealing of the attitudes of a person or group than the language they use. An example is the headline of a Reuters article occupying nearly half a page in your November 10 issue: “Populist tsunami threatens European mainstream.” The whole tenor of the article is summed up by the use of the words “threatens” and “mainstream.”

I like to seek out the meaning of words with which I am unfamiliar, so I looked up “populist” in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, which defines it as an adherent of a “political party seeking to represent the whole of the people.”

Merriam Webster’s online dictionary describes it as: “1. a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people; 2. a believer in the rights, wisdom or virtues of the common people.”

I always thought that in a democracy, this was what all political parties purported to claim and believe.

It appears that the reporter thinks that doing what the people want is a threat to the “European mainstream.” This illustrates why politicians, pollsters and journalists are so disliked by the masses they appear to hold in contempt. They all evidently believe that they are superior to, and know better than, these citizens.

Asked their views by pollsters, ordinary citizens instinctively lie rather than admit that their votes defy the wisdom of the press and politicians. Hence, the current sight of the pollsters and political parties holding postmortem examinations of their misjudged forecasts in the US elections and in the UK Brexit vote.

My question is this: Given that we “ordinary” people vastly outnumber the journalists and politicians, who are the members of the true “European mainstream”?


Jewish identity

The words “Jewish identity” can refer to two different subjects that must be treated separately (“New Jew?” Comment & Features, November 9).

The first is subjective: those features that cause particular individuals to consider themselves “Jewish.” The second is the formal criteria that Jewish collectives have from time to time established in order for one to be accepted as a Jew.

Examples of the latter: the definition in Halacha and the terms of Israel’s Law of Return.

It is impossible to know what the Hebrews of the First Temple period considered their Jewishness to be, if indeed they had any clear conception at all. All the Prophet Jonah could say was, “I am a Hebrew and I fear the Lord, the God of Heaven” (1:9). However, biblical evidence and our general knowledge of the period permit us to say that Jewish identity in this sense was an indivisible composite of what we would today call ethnic, national and religious elements undergirded by a tribal notion of being a descendant of the Children of Israel.

The breakup of the insular Jewish community in modern times has made it possible to identify and appreciate the different strands that made up the once-integrated unity of Jewish identity resulting in self-defined Jews by virtue of ethnicity, nationalism or religion only.

There are even some who, as Sartre pointed out, know they are Jews only because they are targeted by anti-Semites.

Any formal definition of Jewish identity would be considered too broad by some and too narrow by others. Now that we have a sovereign Jewish state, it must be kept wide open for all who wish to share our Jewish destiny.

The Law of Return rightfully adopted the basic objective biological criteria, while the path to Israeli citizenship must be smoothed with the possibility of civil marriage. Once inside the Jewish melting pot, the dynamic interaction of “holy land” and “chosen people” can be expected to work its wonders.

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