Last month the State Department weirdly declared that Jerusalem is separate from Israel. This month the Obama administration declined to move the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital. Jonathan decsribes the notification as a symbol of Obama’s hostility to a united Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority crowed that “the world and the U.S. don’t recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” a followup to their calls for Arab “resistance” throughout the city.
You’d expect at least the PA to be underwhelmed, since Presidents Clinton and Bush also used to issue twice-a-year notifications declining to move the embassy. That’s certainly what Obama’s defenders are pointing out. What they’re leaving unsaid—in a rhetorical and argumentative move that neatly repeats the line that they took during the “1967 borders” dust-up—is that previous Presidents also included wording implying that the embassy would eventually be moved. Obama’s statement removed that wording, leaving only the anti-Israel part of the statement intact.
Denying Israel’s right to its united capital, of course, rests upon the idea that East Jerusalem is some kind of “settlement.” That’s the position the President took when he demanded a halt to Israeli construction in the eastern part of the city, forcing the Palestinians to follow suit and bringing the peace process to a grinding halt. It ignores how Jews have indisputably been the majority in Jerusalem since at least 1853, to saying nothing of the ancient heritage of Jewish Jerusalem. Instead, it picks out the brief period between 1949 to 1967, when Jordan ethnically cleansed East Jerusalem of Jews to interrupt a continuous 1,000-year Jewish presence.
Taking the Palestinian position means installing that atypical 18-year historical blip as the baseline for negotiations. It’s a strange choice even for someone with pretensions toward being even-handed between the victims and perpetrators of ethnic cleansing. It means siding with and rewarding Israel’s Arab enemies, who aimed for exactly this goal when they leveled the Jewish Quarter:
Colonel Abdullah el Tell, local commander of the Jordanian Arab Legion, with whom Mordechai Weingarten negotiated the surrender terms, described the destruction of the Jewish Quarter, in his Memoirs: “The operations of calculated destruction were set in motion. . . . I knew that the Jewish Quarter was densely populated with Jews who caused their fighters a good deal of interference and difficulty. . . . I embarked, therefore, on the shelling of the Quarter with mortars, creating harassment and destruction. . . . Only four days after our entry into Jerusalem the Jewish Quarter had become their graveyard. Death and destruction reigned over it. . . . As the dawn of Friday, May 28, 1948, was about to break, the Jewish Quarter emerged convulsed in a black cloud—a cloud of death and agony. . . .” The Jordanian commander who led the operation is reported to have told his superiors: “For the first time in 1,000 years not a single Jew remains in the Jewish Quarter. Not a single building remains intact. This makes the Jews’ return here impossible.”
The Jordanians then went on to destroy 34 out of the 35 ancient synagogues in the Jewish Quarter and to use them as hen-houses, to desecrate the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives and to use the gravestones as latrines, and to deny Jews access to the Western Wall and to turn the courtyard into a garbage dump. But because they succeeded in doing that for almost 20 whole years—in contrast to 1,000 years of continuous Jewish life—the Obama administration insists that the Jewish State needs to cede portions of East Jerusalem to a future Palestinian entity on demographic grounds. Very even-handed!