Opinion

The Obama administration should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Ken Blackwell & Robert Morrison Senior Fellows, Family Research Council

The Obama administration refuses, time and again, to say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Victoria Nuland, speaking from the State Department, recently repeated over and over that the status of Jerusalem is subject to final-status negotiations. Israel thus becomes the only country recognized by the U.S. that is not allowed to name its own capital. But the U.S. recognizes Germany’s capital. It’s Berlin. This is most curious.

The United States, in organizing the United Nations in 1945, required that only those nations that had declared war on Germany could be members. President Roosevelt told Stalin and Churchill at Yalta that he had written to the presidents of the Latin American states urging them to declare war on Germany. We did not require that they declare war on Japan, too, since the USSR by agreement would only declare war on that Asian empire 90 days after Germany surrendered.

With Nazi Germany’s surrender on May 8, 1945, the capital city of Berlin was divided into four zones of occupation. In 1949, Bonn was recognized as the capital of West Germany when Britain, France and the U.S. combined their zones and supported a free and democratic German state. Bonn served honorably as the capital of that staunch Western ally from 1949 to 1999.

After the Berlin Wall fell and East and West Germany were reunited, the German Bundestag voted to transfer the nation’s capital back to Berlin. The U.S. State Department never hesitated. Our embassy, and every other embassy, packed up and moved from Bonn to Berlin.

Compare this with Jerusalem. American politicians have promised over and over to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Israelis name Jerusalem as their capital in their laws, in their history, in their prayers, in their hearts. And yet, the U.S. Embassy remains in Tel Aviv and Obama spokespersons resist calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The Obama administration insists that the Israelis must negotiate for their own capital.

Negotiate with whom? Not Jordan. Not Syria. Not Egypt. Not Saudi Arabia. Presumably, they mean with the Arabs of Palestine. That means the former Palestinian Liberation Organization, or PLO. Or, as it is known in Arabic, Fatah. Or, if they ever hold an election on the West Bank, the openly terrorist outfit, Hamas. Hamas has pledged to destroy Israel. (Fatah could not get billions in U.S. aid dollars if it openly called for the destruction of Israel, so it simply publishes maps of “Palestine” that show no Israel. The Fatah leaders dedicate public squares to suicide bombers who murder Israelis — and they still cash their U.S. taxpayer checks.)

What connection is there between Jerusalem and Berlin? The late Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, spent World War II in Berlin, helping Hitler. He managed to get out of the city before it fell to the Russians. He returned to the Middle East, where he continued his calls for the annihilation of the Jews. His great work was continued by his nephew, Yasser Arafat, the founder and promoter of the PLO — whose objective was to eliminate Israel. When, in 2000, the Israelis offered him 97% of the land he claimed, Arafat rejected the offer and launched another intifada.

Instead of giving the Israelis the same goodwill and encouragement we gave to democratic, peaceful Germany, the Obama administration bitterly denounces Israel for building houses for Jews in Jerusalem. This administration, as Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) has noted, has denounced Israel more fiercely for building homes than it has denounced Iran for building nuclear weapons.

President Obama took the occasion of his trip to Indonesia to launch into a blistering critique of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. From Jakarta, his boyhood home, Mr. Obama criticized Jews for building homes in their own capital city. He spoke from a city, Jakarta, which Jews aren’t even allowed to visit.

Jews have an expression, shanda fur die goyim, which variously translates as a shame before the nations or something done by a Jew that embarrasses the Jewish community before non-Jews.

The Obama policy toward Jerusalem must be a shanda for all Americans. In view of history, law and logic, it cannot be anything but shameful. We know Mr. Obama despises Winston Churchill. He threw the bust of this great friend of the Jews out into the snow when he entered the White House. But Americans should heed Churchill before demanding “final-status negotiations” on the capital of Israel. He said: “Let the Jews have Jerusalem. It is they who have made it famous.”

Ken Blackwell is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Bob Morrison is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.