Jerusalem is mentioned five times in the Amidah prayer we recite silently
every Shabbat. Jews face Jerusalem when we pray. At the end of every
Passover celebration we exclaim "Next year in Jerusalem!" to voice our yearning to return to the geographical and spiritual home of our
Historically, Israel's capital was established by the Jewish King David
3,000 years ago (hence Jerusalem's nickname, the City of David), and it's
been a majority Jewish city for the last 100 years. Of course,
Jerusalem has been the capital of present-day Israel since Independence in
Yet the U.S. keeps its Israeli Embassy in Tel Aviv, making Jerusalem the
only capital in the world whose status is denied—illegally—by the United
States. Indeed, Congress in 1995 ratified the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which orders establishing our Embassy in Jerusalem.
The Act also gives the President the ability on a semiannual basis, in the
interests of "national security," to delay implementing the law—which every
President since 1995 has regularly done. President Trump, who promised he would move the Embassy to Jerusalem on "day one" of his
Presidency, has invoked this waiver privilege once so far.
His next deadline to exercise the waiver—or allow the move—is December 1. This time he should fufill his campaign promise.
Second, by delaying the inevitable, Mr. Trump only builds false
expectations on the part of the Arab Palestinians, who nurture a
fantastical belief that they will inherit the eastern half of Jerusalem as part of their new state.
Placating the Arabs on this issue is wrong for several major reasons,
foremost among them is that the Palestinians aren't even close to accepting the existence of the Jewish state, which is an absolute requirement
for peace. Nor do the Palestinians have the political and economic
stability to support a state—and won't for years to come. Nor, finally,
will Israel ever divide Jerusalem so the Arabs have sovereignty over half
This piece, by venerable diplomat and Israeli spokesperson Dore Gold, makes a powerful case for supporting Israel's stewardship of Jerusalem. Indeed, he argues, Israel is the only power that can guarantee access and security for the 3000-year-old treasure trove of religious archeology, history, sites of worship and artifacts in Jerusalem.
I believe you'll find, as I did, that Gold's article opens up a fascinating
new dimension on why Israel's presence in Jerusalem is critical not just to Israel, but to Christians, Jews and Muslims the world
Please also take a quick minute also to review the P.S. below and click on
the link to review FLAME's latest hasbarah effort, if you haven't
done so yet. It discusses the most villainous of U.N. agencies, the
Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem: Why It Matters
By Dore Gold, Testimony to the U.S. House of
Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, November 8, 2017
Today, I am not going to address the question of moving the U.S.
from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem directly. It is my view that President Donald
Trump has made a commitment in that regard and I believe he will stand by
what he has said. The United States will evaluate the timing and
circumstances for executing that decision in accordance with its interests.
The U.S. will of course have to consider many factors in making that
decision. But what is often overlooked in the contentious debate about the
location of the U.S. Embassy in Israel is why it matters. The embassy
question is a subset of a much more important issue: the need for Western
recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. That recognition is vital for
On a political level, the denial of recognition helps fuel the dangerous
fantasy, popular in the Middle East, that Israel is impermanent and
illegitimate. On a religious and cultural level, the denial of recognition
helps fuel the dangerous fantasy that Jews have no connection to Jerusalem
and Israel—that their presence is an imposition because
the land is not their homeland.
Those could be characterized as Israeli interests alone. But what I'd like to discuss today is what could be called the
international interest, or the interest in Jerusalem of concerned states.
That interest often concerns the protection of the holy sites and assuring
complete freedom of access to them. Religious freedom and pluralism is a
core value which both our countries share.
Protecting Jerusalem's holy sites is a responsibility that the State of
Israel assumed in law back in 1967, when Jerusalem was re-united after the
Six-Day War. It is also a responsibility that the people of Israel, I
believe, are prepared to assume in the future as well.
For etched into the collective consciousness of all of us is what happened
to Jerusalem when we were absent and when we were barred from the city, and
what has happened to the holy sites since 1967—since Israel unified
Jerusalem and protected access for all peoples and faiths. What is clear
from a brief survey is that only a free and democratic Israel will protect
the holy sites of all the great faiths in Jerusalem. Let me stress, to the
extent that the U.S. reinforces Israel's standing in Jerusalem, it is
reinforcing core American and Western values of pluralism, peace, and
mutual respect—and it is reinforcing the position of the
only international actor that will protect Jerusalem's holy sites.
The Internationalization of Holy Sites
The very fact that Jerusalem is viewed as a holy city by all three of the
great monotheistic faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—has frequently led to ill-conceived proposals to
internationalize Jerusalem or sections of it in any resolution of the
It is not widely remembered, but this idea was actually tried—and failed miserably.
Nonetheless, it is sometimes surprisingly argued in certain diplomatic
circles that the point of reference for any political solution on Jerusalem
should be UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, which is
also known as the Partition Plan. It should be recalled that Resolution 181
called for establishing an international entity around Jerusalem, which it
called a Corpus Separatum. It would be governed by the United Nations
On May 15, 1948, when Israel declared its independence, invading Arab
placed Jerusalem under siege. Its Jewish population was cut off from food
and water. In addition to all this, Jerusalem faced intense artillery
bombardment. The Egyptians took up positions on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
An Iraqi Expeditionary Force reached the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot.
The Old City was invaded by the Arab Legion of Transjordan. Israel's
Foreign Minister, Moshe Sharett, reported to the UN that "ancient Jewish
synagogues are being destroyed one after the other as a result of Arab
artillery fire." Those artillery shells hit churches and even the Dome of
the Rock on the Temple Mount. The mounting attacks led to a mass exodus of
the Jewish population of the Old City—what today would be called "ethnic
cleansing." The only question that arose was what the UN was going to do
with this unfolding situation.
Frankly, it did nothing. Its internationalization proposal was failing.
Standing in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, on December 5, 1949, after
the end of the first Arab-Israeli War, Israel's first prime minister, David
Ben-Gurion, spoke about the Corpus Separatum and the UN's role. The UN, he
reminded his listeners, "did not lift a finger" to protect Jerusalem. Only
the newly created Israel Defense Forces, along with pre-state formations,
protected "Jewish Jerusalem from being wiped off the face of the earth."
The recently formed Har'el Brigade of the Palmach, which had been placed
under the command of Yitzhak Rabin, was given the mission to break the
siege, thereby permitting relief columns to enter the city.
Ben-Gurion then went on in his Knesset speech to address
the internationalization proposal contained in Resolution 181: "We cannot
today regard the decision of 29 November 1947 as being possessed of any
further moral force, since the United Nations did not succeed in
implementing its own decisions. In our view, the decision of 29 November
about Jerusalem is null and void" (emphasis added). In
other words, Israel still adhered to the rest of the resolution, but it
could not give up parts of Jerusalem to international control. Ben-Gurion
reminded the UN that "the people which faithfully honored for 2,500 years
the oath sworn by the Rivers of Babylon not to forget Jerusalem—this people will never reconcile itself with separation
from Jerusalem." Eight days later, Ben-Gurion declared that he was moving
the Knesset from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: "For the State of Israel there has
always been, and always will be, one capital only—Jerusalem the Eternal."
Again, this is not just a history lesson. In March 1999, when I served
as Israel's ambassador to the UN, there was an initiative underway to
revive Resolution 181 with respect to Jerusalem. This effort was supported
by members of the European Union, several Arab states, and by the PLO. I
doubted that the Palestinians really wanted internationalization, but it
served as a convenient instrument for prying Jerusalem away from Israel.
During a visit by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to UN Secretary-General Kofi
Annan, the internationalization idea contained in 181 re-surfaced and came
up in a formal letter to the Secretary-General that was distributed to all
member states. I asked for instructions from my prime minister, and I was
told to go back to Ben-Gurion's formulations in this regard from 1949 and
use them, which I did. While internationalization and division of the city
has no credibility today, given the experience of the past, the idea
nonetheless still creeps up in prestigious research institutes and academic
bodies that influence the policy-making community.
Holy Sites in the Interim Period
In 1993, with the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, a
second scenario for holy sites arose. Those agreements, which created
interim arrangements, were implemented with respect to the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem was designated as an issue for final status
negotiations in the future. The Interim Agreement from 1995, which was the
most important of the implementation instruments created under Oslo, made
reference to religious sites in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that were
transferred to Palestinian jurisdiction (Annex III, Appendix 1, Article
32). While these agreements were signed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, or
by his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, in his presence, it became clear
that he never planned to relinquish Jerusalem. One month before his
assassination in November 1995, Rabin stood in the Knesset and stated
plainly that the borders of Israel during the "permanent solution" will
include "first and foremost united Jerusalem…as the capital of
In the meantime, during the interim period, guarantees were given to
protect the holy sites, to assure free access to them, and to provide
freedom of worship and practice. The Interim Agreement was signed by the
parties here in Washington, in the White House, and witnessed by the U.S.,
Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Norway, and the EU, which added their signatures.
How did this arrangement turn out? If the Interim Agreement was intended to
provide a test run for the management of holy sites by the Palestinian
leadership in a future final status agreement, it fell far short of what
even the strongest advocates of the Oslo Accords had expected.
In the aftermath of the failure of the Camp David summit in July 2000,
the PLO launched what became known as the Second Intifada. Religious sites
were specifically targeted. In Bethlehem, Fatah operatives and Palestinian
security services assaulted Rachel's Tomb in December 2000. Less than two
years later, in April 2002, 13 armed Palestinians from Hamas, Islamic
Jihad, and Fatah Tanzim forcibly entered the Church of the Nativity in
Bethlehem—the birthplace of Jesus and one of the holiest
sites for Christianity.
The gunmen seized the Christian clergy as hostages, looted church
valuables, and desecrated Bibles. Another repeated target for attack was
Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, the protection of which was undertaken by the
Palestinian side in the Oslo II Agreement. Gunmen from Fatah and Hamas took
part in the ransacking of the site in October 2000. The site came under
attack again as Palestinians torched Joseph's Tomb in October 2015 and set
it on fire.
The Growing Assault by Jihadi Groups on Holy Sites across the Middle
The escalating aggression against holy sites in the West Bank cannot be
examined in isolation. It was becoming a hallmark of many jihadi groups
across the Middle East. There was the famous 2001 attack by the Taliban in
the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan against the 2,000-year-old Buddhist
statues there which were reduced to rubble. Ten years later in 2011, a
suicide bomb exploded at the Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria, Egypt,
killing 23 and wounding nearly 100. The Egyptian Interior Ministry placed
responsibility for the attack on Jaish al-Islam, a Gaza-based organization
that had conducted joint operations with Hamas in the past.
These threats to Christian sites continued. In December 2016, a suicide
bomber struck a chapel next to St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo. ISIS, which
in the meantime had established itself in eastern Libya and in northern
Sinai, took responsibility for the attack. But Egyptian security personnel
also looked for a connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. And in 2017 on Palm
Sunday, twin bombing attacks were perpetrated against churches in the
Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria, killing 41. ISIS declared its
responsibility for the attacks, as well.
The fact that ISIS participated in the assault should not have been
since it came to Egypt after its involvement in a sectarian war in the
Levant. In northern Syria, armed opposition groups had begun targeting
religious sites, including Christian churches, not long after the Syrian
civil war began. A Shia institution found in a number of villages, known as
a husseiniya, was a repeated object of attack. In Iraq, ISIS broke off the
cross from one of Mosul's main Syrian Orthodox churches and announced its
conversion into a mosque. It was the second conversion of this sort to be
conducted in Mosul.
What is clear is that many of the organizations perpetrating attacks on
holy sites were interconnected. Jaish al-Islam issued a communique in 2015
announcing its allegiance to ISIS. Sheikh Yusuf -al Qaradawi, who is viewed
as the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood and who resides in Qatar,
issued his opinion on the 2001 Taliban attack on the Bamiyan Buddhas. His
only reservation was based on his concern that such a move would elicit
Buddhist retaliation against Muslims. Thus, the attack itself was not
prohibited, but he was only concerned with its possible repercussions.
Qaradawi's religious opinions appear on the websites of Hamas, thus they
can have an impact on other theaters of conflict.
In Jerusalem, the key organization that represented radical Islam
was the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel—an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. On the one hand, its leader, Sheikh
Raed Salah, falsely charged Israel with threatening to undermine the
foundations of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. He convened rallies under
the banner of "al-Aqsa is in Danger," and incited much of the Middle East
with this lie. Yet while this movement claimed Israel was threatening the
al-Aqsa Mosque, it had been instrumental in digging out the underground
halls under the compound of the al-Aqsa Mosque, which ironically posed the
greatest potential threat to its stability. At its own initiative, Israel
worked with regional partners to protect the area from any instability.
In 1947, Jerusalem was being showered with artillery fire and synagogues
were being blown up. During the 1950s and 1960s, Jerusalem was divided by
barbed wire, walls, and machine gun emplacements. Today, the unified city
under Israeli control welcomes over three million tourists a year who visit
its holy sites in peace and security.
The State of Israel has acted responsibly in protecting this legacy of
humanity. The question of the location of the U.S. Embassy is really a
question of whether the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's
permanent capital—sending a signal to the world that
efforts to delegitimize Israel, to rewrite the history of other religions,
and to pit Western countries against each other will fail. By recognizing
Jerusalem and moving its embassy, the United States would help promote
peace and security in the region.
I wish to remind this committee that in the past there were states
that fully respected Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Indeed, 13 states had
their embassies to Israel in Jerusalem until 1980. That year, however, the
Soviet and Muslim blocs in the United Nations pushed through a resolution
demanding that the 13 remove their embassies. They all did. The U.S.
Secretary of State, Edmund Muskie, called the resolution "fundamentally
flawed," and that the U.S. considered the instruction that states remove
their diplomatic missions from Jerusalem "not binding" and "without force,"
stating, "We reject it as a disruptive attempt to dictate to other
Whatever is finally decided on the embassy issue, states have a clear
choice. They can support the State of Israel, which has acted responsibly
in protecting this legacy of humanity, or they can undercut Israel, by
preferring arrangements for the Holy City that plainly have not worked in
the past and will undoubtedly fail in the future. There is a regional
assault on holy sites underway across our region. Israel deserves your
support as it defends Jerusalem. For only a free and democratic Israel will
protect Jerusalem for all the great faiths.