Although the phrase “Jerusalem, Israel” fairly rolls off the tongue, no U.S. administration has ever recognized any part of Jerusalem as being part of Israel.

This counterintuitive policy has resulted in much silliness as events, particularly since the 1967 Six-Day War, have simply overtaken the reasons for not considering all of Jerusalem the capital of Jerusalem.

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Last week the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres on Mt. Herzl was the stage for the latest such episode. Thus, the first White House announcement releasing the transcript of President Obama’s eulogy listed, at the top of page one, the cemetery’s location as Jerusalem, Israel. It didn’t take long, however, for the White House to circulate a “corrected” version that pointedly had a line drawn through “Israel.” And therein lies a strange tale.

The background to the policy is rooted in the 1947 UN Middle East partition resolution that declared Jerusalem an international city under the legal jurisdiction of the UN. However, when the 1948 Arab-instigated war against Israel ended, the armistice agreement, notwithstanding the partition provisions making Jerusalem an international city, tracked the realities of the resulting military lines, which left western Jerusalem effectively in Israeli hands and eastern Jerusalem effectively in Arab hands.

Most countries, including the U.S., refused to accept the new status as anything other than temporary; their overarching goal was the eventual internationalization of Jerusalem. Ignored was the fact that the Arab effort to destroy Israel could only be taken as an abrogation of the mandate. Nor did the 1967 war in which Israel won control of eastern Jerusalem, thus uniting both parts of the city under effective Israeli control, change the position of most world governments.

To be sure, Congress in 1995 passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act that recognizes Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel:

 

(a) STATEMENT OF THE POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES

(1) Jerusalem should remain a undivided city in which the right of every ethnic and religious group are protected;

(2) Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel…

 

But succeeding American administrations have simply ignored this plain congressional mandate except when some officials momentarily forget in the pursuit of some procrustean political correctness.

In a way, this latest incident highlights the foolishness as no other. Is it conceivable that the funeral of a former president would somehow be scheduled to take place outside his own country? And yet we have the president of the United States traveling to Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem to deliver a eulogy upon the death of a former president of Israel on behalf of the United States. Is that not a powerful statement in itself of recognition of Jerusalem as being part of Israel?

Indeed, you cannot find a picture of Mr. Obama speaking at Mt. Herzl without several Israeli flags – and only Israeli flags – flapping in the wind.

Even The New York Times, certainly no supporter of those who take a hard line on Israeli control of Jerusalem, got caught off guard. Its news story reporting on President Obama’s trip to Jerusalem was headlined “Obama Flies To Israel for Shimon Peres Memorial Service.” And the story began with: “Both were Nobel laureates who labored for peace in the Middle East but failed to achieve it. Now, their joint efforts are at an end as President Obama prepares to pay final tribute to Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.”

It’s time for American presidents to follow the congressional mandate, not to mention plain common sense, and recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. To continue the current farce not only flies in the face of legal precedent and logic but also suggests to the Arabs that they may yet see a United States that champions their cause. There can be no greater incentive for their continued recalcitrance.

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