January 29, 2004
U.S. Must Move Embassy to Jerusalem
As part of the war on terror, it's time for the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem and effectively end the dispute over Israel's capital.
More than three years ago, Yasser Arafat branded the Palestinian Authority's terror campaign against Israel the "Al Aqsa Intifada."
The first part of the name, "Al Aqsa," refers to the Al Aqsa Mosque constructed in Jerusalem on Judaism's Temple Mount. Many contemporary Muslims claim that Mohammed made his famous Night Journey to this site, and by referring to "Al Aqsa," Arafat reminded his followers that Israel controlled the holy site.
The second word, "intifada," means "struggle." Therefore, by labeling the campaign the Al Aqsa Intifada, Arafat defined the war as the battle for Jerusalem.
Since then, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials, along with regime-controlled newspapers, radio, television, schools and summer camps, have all trumpeted the Palestinian Authority's wartime message: Our martyrs will liberate Jerusalem.
Palestinian Authority-sponsored terrorists have attacked Jerusalem again and again on both sides of the 1967 border. Places ordinary Americans should never have heard of -- but now know -- include Sbarro, Hebrew University and Cafe Moment.
However in fact, the Palestinian Authority's three-year campaign should now be labeled the "Al Aqsa Nakba."
"Nakba" in Arabic means "catastrophe." Arab regimes describe the founding of Israel in 1948 as a catastrophe. The Palestinian Authority, for example, has an annual Nakba Day on the anniversary of Israel's independence to commemorate the twin disasters of both the creation of Israel and its continued survival.
Arab regimes inflicted the 1948 nakba on themselves by defying the United Nations' partition plan, invading the Jewish State and suffering a crushing defeat.
Arab regimes also inflicted the Al Aqsa Nakba on themselves. Recall that in July 2000 at the Camp David II summit, the Palestinian Authority (backed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia) rejected offers of a capital in Jerusalem, control over the Temple Mount, 90 percent of the West Bank and $20 billion in United States tax dollars.
After refusing to make a counterproposal -- indeed, any offer for peace -- Arafat went to war to redeem Jerusalem in blood and fire.
However, the fact is that right now, Israel is finishing its security fence on the eastern border of Jerusalem, completing an almost 60-year process of making it into Israel's indivisible capital. This should come as no surprise.
For almost 2000 years, the central defining motto of the Jewish people has been, "Next year in Jerusalem." In fact, Israelis -- left and right, religious and secular, native-born and immigrant -- have been busy, very busy, especially since 1967, in Jerusalem.
By the way, it's a good thing for everyone that Jerusalem has become Israel's indivisible capital. First, Israel has preserved and will continue to preserve access for people of all faiths to all holy sites. The Palestinian Authority's record of burning synagogues and oppressing its Christian minority speaks for itself.
Second, a divided city would turn into a war zone, reminiscent of when the Palestinian Liberation Organization controlled part of Beirut.
Third, Israel has ensured its territorial contiguity from the coastal plain to the Jordan Valley.
Finally, it's worth noting that Israeli Arabs have voted with their feet: Thousands of them have recently moved to live in a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control and free of PA intimidation, oppression and corruption.
Israel has won a very important victory in this long, undecided war by making Jerusalem its indivisible capital. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, which rejected a capital in part of Jerusalem and staked their reputations on total victory, have failed again.
However, Israel's victory is still temporary without diplomatic recognition. Israel cannot say it has won unless and until the United States recognizes that Jerusalem is Israel's capital by moving its embassy there. This is not a matter of symbolism. It's a matter of using American power to help end the conflict over the city.
Critics charge that moving the embassy would be provocative, but the United States invaded Iraq with only meager Arab support and over objections from Old Europe, Russia and China. When compared with creating an Arab democracy in the Middle East and allowing women to vote, moving an embassy seems, well, not that provocative.
By not moving the embassy, the United States just encourages more terror. For more than three years, the Palestinian Authority has led terror operations that have killed 903 people, and 52 U.S. citizens have been killed by Palestinian terrorists since 1993.
Even after the examples of regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan, Palestinian forces recently targeted and assassinated three U. S. Embassy guards in Gaza. Unfortunately, in response to all these killings, the United States has yet to administer a decisive, strategic punishment.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 provides that the United States will relocate its embassy to Jerusalem. The act was meant to change a failed State Department policy of "even-handedness" that has just helped to perpetuate the conflict.
In May 2000, presidential candidate George W. Bush -- perhaps counting either Jewish voters in Florida or the 3,000 Florida voters living in Israel -- promised to move the embassy. He has yet to do so.
President Bush does not need to move the embassy to show voters that he is the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House. He needs to move the embassy to push this part of the conflict to an end and ultimately to force Arab regimes to cease their belligerence against Israel.
The president needs to show -- again -- that nations that perpetrate terror will suffer catastrophe.
Nathan D. Wirtschafter is a co-chair of the Israel Speakers Bureau for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.