This past Wednesday, despite the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 and the will of the current Congress, President Obama joined the ranks of previous feckless administrations refusing to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In all fairness to Obama, from Clinton onward, this law, which unambiguously gives full U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, has been skirted by presidential order under the guise of national security interests.
So what’s so heinous about this act that every Congress since 1995 has reiterated it, yet it still has not been enacted into law by executive order? Let’s have a look.
Outlined in 17 distinct findings the Congress found:
• Under international law, a sovereign nation can choose its own capital.
• Since 1950, Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel.
• Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s president, Knesset, and Supreme Court.
• Jerusalem is the spiritual capital of the Jewish people.
• From 1948-1967, Jerusalem was divided, and Jews were denied access to their holy sites.
• In 1967, Jerusalem was united.
• Since 1967, Jerusalem has been open to all religions, allowing each equal access.
• This access has continued and been guaranteed.
• Congress believes that Jerusalem should remain an undivided city.
• In 1992, both the Senate and the House adopted resolution 113, reaffirming sentiment that Jerusalem remain an undivided city.
• In June 1993, the House sent a letter to Warren Christopher, then secretary of state, to begin the relocation of the embassy.
• In March 1995, the Senate did the same.
• “The United States maintains its embassy in the functioning capital of every country except in the case of our democratic friend and strategic ally, the State of Israel.”
• The United States conducts official meetings in Jerusalem, implying de facto recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
• “In 1996, the State of Israel will celebrate the 3000th anniversary of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem since King David’s entry.”
What act, what manifesto could be more in tune with the overwhelming sentiment of the Congress and by extension the American people than this one? Yet in face of this, Bill Clinton threatened a veto of the legislation if a proviso wasn’t added allowing for a six-month presidential waiver period. He got his way and immediately jumped on it. Citing national security interests, he exercised essentially a veto other presidents have been using ever since.
When asked what national interests would be threatened by recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Clinton’s administration responded that it would endanger – get this – the peace process. The peace process? Incredulous, Bob Dole, Republican Senate majority leader at the time and sponsor of the bill, countered: “This legislation is not about the peace process. It’s about recognizing Israel’s capital.”
As John Lovitz on Saturday Night Live used to say, “that’s the ticket” – it’s the peace process that’s holding everything up. But in some twisted herd mentality, Clinton, Bush, or Obama have never come to grips with the reality that intransigent Palestinian leadership – not Jerusalem, statehood, rights of return, or any other prevarication – is the cause.
Today, Clinton and George W. have as much relevance as Grover Cleveland. For the next 19 months, all we have is President Obama, who will most likely continue the same disastrous Middle East policy that has left Israelis and Palestinians farther apart than ever before and the rest of the Middle East the colossal mess it currently is in. It makes one wonder why, so obsessed with the legacy a peace agreement could bring him, he doesn’t try something new. For starters:
Recognize unambiguously Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and immediately move our embassy there. Insist that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a sovereign Jewish state prior to negotiations. Repudiate the Palestinian narrative, which demands that no Jew be allowed to live in a Palestinian state. Force Abbas to dismantle his merged government with recognized terrorist entity Hamas. Demand that Abbas begin conditioning his people away from hatred of Jews, setting the stage for an eventual peace with Israel.
Dream on…we all know that under this president, none of this will ever occur. It’s beyond his ideological scope. But the rightful recognition of Jerusalem and the movement of the embassy could actually be huge for a real peace movement. It would dash the unrealistic hope the Palestinians have that the United States can offer up unrequited concessions from Israel while distancing itself from the Jewish state.
Despite Obama once again exercising his waiver, the congressional will to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is not dead. This past January, the newly elected Republican Congress, headed by Senator Ted Cruz, introduced the Embassy Act of 2015. Cruz had this to say:
Almost fifteen years ago Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate. …It is my hope that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle support this important bill. It is long past due for our government to finally and unequivocally recognize Israel’s historical capital both in word and deed.
How ironic it would be if such official U.S recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital actually created an atmosphere for true peace talks rather than a mere pipe dream?