In a previous clarifying message we showed that before the Six-Day War in 1967, the claim that Jerusalem was a Muslim/Arab city had seldom been asserted and that such claim had come about only in modern times. The status of Jerusalem continues to be of great importance. The Arabs clamorously insist that at least the eastern part of the city should be yielded to them. The Israelis insist that Jerusalem continue as the indivisible capital of their country.
What are the facts?
Jerusalem reunited and indivisible. Ever since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, all American governments and Congress have confirmed their conviction that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that, once reunited, it should remain indivisible.
Before the Six-Day War in 1967 the city was divided, the Jordanians having occupied the eastern part since the War of Liberation in 1948. During their 19-year reign, all Jewish residents were driven out and all Jewish places of worship closed or destroyed. The various Christian denominations operated under the strict control of Muslim authorities.
All this ended in 1967 with the liberation of all of Jerusalem by the Israel Defense Forces and with the reunification of the city. Access to all holy places became available to all. The many religious bodies in the holy city (and in all of Israel) are able to pursue their activities without any restrictions. Jerusalem is today truly a free and open city. Just as the whole world rejoiced when the ugly wall dividing Berlin was torn down, so do we rejoice that the wall, the barbed wire and the machine gun emplacements dividing the city were finally torn down.
U.S. Embassy not in Israel's Capital. While the Palestinians lay claim to the eastern part of Jerusalem and wish it to become the capital of a hoped-for Palestinian state, nobody, not even the Arabs, questions the western part of the city to be Israeli. It is remarkable therefore that, despite this universal recognition, the United States has steadfastly insisted on placing and keeping its embassy in Tel Aviv, the major commercial city, instead of in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital and the seat of the Knesset (parliament), the Supreme Court, and of all government offices. It is as if a government accredited to the United States were to insist on keeping its embassy in, say, New York, rather than in Washington D.C.
With the U.S. in the lead, all other countries have also located their embassies in Tel Aviv. It is a bizarre situation. All ambassadors and their staffs must make almost daily trips to Jerusalem because no government business is conducted in Tel Aviv. Our country maintains diplomatic relations with over 150 countries. In all of them, the U.S. Embassy is located in the respective nation’s designated capital. The only exception is Israel where, so far, our government has insisted on locating its embassy in a city other than the capital.
Congress in favor of moving embassy to Jerusalem. Leaders of Congress – both Republicans and Democrats – have passed legislation by which the U.S. Embassy would have to be moved to Jerusalem. That legislation has been endorsed by 93 Senators. The President, however, may delay the transfer to Jerusalem if he deems that the national interest demands it. The U.S. has a lease on a 10-acre lot in Talpiot, a totally Jewish neighborhood in West Jerusalem. It is to be hoped, therefore that before too long, reality will prevail and that the U.S. Embassy will indeed be located in Jerusalem – the capital of one of its closest allies.
Prior to their election, both Presidents Bush and President Clinton assured the public that the U.S. Embassy would be moved to Jerusalem. But in the end, they blocked such action. We must hope that President Obama will, at long last, fulfill this wish of Congress, which is therefore also the wish of the American people, and that he will order that the U.S. Embassy be moved to Jerusalem.
The main reason given for not moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is that it would violate “Arab sensitivities.” That might indeed be the case. But while there would be some posturing, none of the Arab states could afford to do much else. Egypt would certainly not refuse its yearly multi-billion dollar subsidy from Washington. King Abdullah of Jordan would not jeopardize the political and financial lifeline that the U.S. has extended to him. Saudi Arabia would make some perfunctory noises, but that would be just about all. The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. To deny the status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel questions the legitimacy of the state. The move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will signal once and for all that there will be no U.S. or world support for the division of Jerusalem and for the establishment – in any part of it – as the capital of a new Arab state.
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Gerardo Joffe, President