As a child, I learned that I could remember how to spell the big word “Jerusalem” if I just put the letters “USA” in the middle of it. Since then, I’ve learned that the “U.S.A.” has been in the middle of Jerusalem-issues since modern Israel’s founding, in 1948.
Yet, with all of our international leadership and involvement in Jerusalem’s affairs, over these nearly 70 years, we have sheepishly “followed the crowd” and built our embassy in Tel Aviv, rather than the nation’s capital of Jerusalem. Why is that?
Last December, the U.N. Security Council’s Resolution 2334 declared sections of Jerusalem’s Old City, including the historic Jewish Quarter, the revered Western Wall, and the millennia-old Temple Mount itself, were “occupied territory” and any Jewish presence there illegal, if it is without Palestinian consent. This followed the unbelievable UNESCO October 2016 resolution, stubbornly ignoring historic, Jewish links to the ancient Temple Mount.
After 19 years of true “occupation” by Jordan (from 1948 to 1967), the Old City of Jerusalem was liberated by Israeli forces, fifty years ago–during the 1967 Six Day War. The capture of this historic site meant the capital of the Jewish people was once again united and undivided.
Though Israel gained control of the Old City and provided security for the historic areas, it allowed the Muslim Wakf authority over their prayer mosques, which had been built on the former Jewish Temple Mount. The three major religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam once again had peaceful access to their holy sites, in the “Holy City.”
During the British Mandate, after World War I, the modern, western side of Jerusalem grew as Jewish immigrants joined generations of Jewish residents there. In 1948, by the authority of the United Nations, Israel declared itself a nation, with Jerusalem as its capital. It was immediately attacked by six Arab countries, seeking to destroy it. Against all odds, Israel survived and an armistice was signed in 1949. Soon, western Jerusalem blossomed, as the new capital of the modern state of Israel.
Yet, because the 1948 war of independence ended with this armistice, rather than a capitulation of a losing side, the Arab nations never acknowledged Israel’s “right to exist.” This has been the cause of later wars, two Palestinian intifadas, and a series of armed conflicts in the broader Arab-Israeli conflict.
Consequently, foreign governments have been reluctant to inflame Arab tensions by locating their embassies, even in the undisputed territory of western Jerusalem. Instead, international embassies are located in Tel Aviv. No other nation, especially one “authorized” by the United Nations, has suffered the indignity of other nations refusing to locate their embassies in their capital city. Yet, Israel endures this perpetual snub by its “friends” due to the radical reactions of its enemies, the backward looking Arab states which seek to deny reality and revise history!
The United States has, likewise, followed this humiliating foreign policy, even though its Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1996, authorizing the relocation of its embassy to the western portion of Jerusalem. The congressional act notes that “Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s President, Parliament, and Supreme Court, and most of its ministries and cultural institutions.” However, every U.S. President since that time has shamefully resisted the relocation, due to Arab sensitivity in the matter, and “America’s best interests.”
Oddly, President Barack Obama perplexingly visited western Jerusalem multiple times during his eight years in office. The website HonestReporting.com points out that these included:
– staying at the King David Hotel
– addressing students in Jerusalem’s International Convention Center
– a state dinner at the President’s Residence,
– holding a joint press conference at the Prime Minister’s Residence
– viewing of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum
– laying a wreath at Yad Vashem, the Jewish memorial to the 6 million victims of the Holocaust.
– participating in Shimon Peres’ funeral on Mt. Herzl
President Donald Trump made the relocation of our embassy to Jerusalem a priority issue of his campaign and now of his early presidency. We’ll have to wait and see his actions and their consequences on the world stage.
Located in the biblically-historic hills of ancient Judea, on a major road connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River Valley, Jerusalem is both symbolic and strategic for Israel’s present and its future.