Jerusalem, Why Did We Forget Thee?

Three Important Lessons of Democrats Platform Snafu

Jerusalem, Remember Me? What did we learn from the Democrats platform debacle. A lot, but not what you think.
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Jerusalem, Remember Me? What did we learn from the Democrats platform debacle. A lot, but not what you think.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published September 14, 2012, issue of September 21, 2012.
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Second, Israel matters to Jewish voters. It’s true that surveys show only a fraction of Jews ranking Israel their top concern. When you ask their top three concerns, though, Israel looms large.

Third, Arab and Muslim Americans are emerging as a political constituency. Until now, pro-Israel activists could press Israel’s case without serious pushback. That’s wearing thin. In the coming era, American Middle East policy will have to be negotiated. The Charlotte convention was a taste of what’s ahead.

One more point, seldom discussed but critically important: American policy. The United States has never recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Neither have most other nations. Of 171 countries that ever had diplomatic relations with Israel, only 19 ever had embassies in Jerusalem. None do today.

The reason: Israel doesn’t have a formal eastern border. The 1947 United Nations partition plan envisioned a tiny Israel and set Jerusalem aside as an international city. Arab states rejected it and invaded, forcing Israel to fight for independence. Most nations accept the 1949 armistice line as a de facto border. But most still pay lip service to the legal fiction of a separate Jerusalem, pending a peace agreement.

Congress has urged successive administrations to recognize Jerusalem and move the American embassy there, but no president has ever done so and none is likely to, regardless of campaign platforms, until Israel signs a treaty defining its eastern border.

Pro-Israel activists often ask why Israel is the only country that’s not permitted to name its own capital. The answer: It’s the only country that names a city that no other country recognizes as within its sovereign territory. It should be and will be, speedily and in our day. But we’re not there yet.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


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