Whose Jerusalem ?
Whose Land ?
By Lisa Lenkiewicz - January 16, 2002
Every four years, Americans are pandered to by presidential candidates on the issue of moving the embassy of the United States from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. By now, this charade should be totally transparent, because each candidate, when elected, promptly disavows his promise, and the whole pandering thing begins again with the next election cycle. George W. Bush is the most recent example of this. Running on a pledge to move the embassy, he's backed down - just like all his predecessors have -in the face of the pressures from the State Department to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv.
No matter that Congress overwhelmingly demands that the embassy be moved. No matter that the American electorate is in favor of an embassy in Jerusalem by a clear majority. No matter that keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv contradicts the universal precedent of letting a sovereign state choose its own capital. The State Department always gets its way, and the embassy stays in Tel Aviv.
Now, more than ever though, ambiguity about the location of Israel's capital is dangerous and detrimental. Our equivocation on this issue casts a shadow on our conviction about the very existence of Israel itself. This indecision encourages Israel's adversaries and lends itself to further violence and instability.
The reason always trotted out to forestall the moving of the embassy is that it would foment violence by the Arabs and would stop the "peace process" from "moving forward." September 11th changed that kind of thinking both in America and in Israel. Those in the free world who thought we were at peace and that animosity towards us could be handled with a reasonable response were rudely awakened. In fact, the depravity of the attacks in New York left no doubt that they would have been more deadly if only the assailants had had the means. And in Israel, the majority who voted for Sharon was the initial manifestation of the now ever-growing plurality that has come to the realization that rebuilding Israel's deterrent capability is a wiser course than rewarding aggression with concession.
Israel has a dominant moral, legal and historical claim to sovereignty over the land, and this gives her the right to make Jerusalem her capital. Hesitancy to recognize this right only creates an ambiguity about the underlying claim itself. Ending that ambiguity by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital now would go a long way to bring genuine peace to the region.
Nothing demonstrates the indeterminate state Jerusalem is in now more than the plight of its Arab residents. Many of them hold Israeli passports, but PA police, who visit parts of the city at will, have been known to whisk Arab residents off to Jericho for questioning U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Israel's assertion of that right will affirm the status of the city and move towards creating the environment needed to encourage the growth of a much sought-after new Arab leadership. Moderates won't come forward while they and their families are under threat. Clarifying, once and for all, the status of the city will end this threat. It will lift Jerusalem out of limbo and is a necessary step in the cultivation of new leadership.
Other countries need to move their embassies to Jerusalem too, and Israel has to encourage this. One thing terrorism has done has been to create distinctions between countries that cherish freedom and those that don't. With the UN, a mostly ineffective body of undemocratic countries long ago subsumed by its totalitarian majority, it's now past time for a new organization centered on principles of freedom and democracy. What better place than Jerusalem to rally the free world? Moving the embassies of countries like Turkey and India, also targets of Islamist terror, to Jerusalem, would have tremendous historical significance as they make common cause with Israel.
An American embassy in Jerusalem says to Israel's Arab neighbors that the United States stands firmly behind Israel's right to exist and makes an unambiguous statement about the West's place in the world. There's little reason to delay moving our embassy to Jerusalem and doing so only hastens the time that peace and stability can come to the region.
If not now, when?Lisa Lenkiewicz is the editor of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger.
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