Ovation on Jerusalem

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“Since 1967, under Israeli sovereignty, united Jerusalem has, for the first time in two thousand years, become the city of peace. For the first time, the holy places have been open to worshipers from all three great faiths. For the first time, no group in the city or among its pilgrims has been persecuted or denied free expression. For the first time, a single sovereign authority has afforded security and protection to members of every nationality who sought to come to pray there. There have been efforts to re-divide this city by those who claim that peace can come through division, that it can be secured through multiple sovereignties, multiple laws and multiple police forces. This is a groundless and dangerous assumption, which impels me to declare today: There will never be such a re-division of Jerusalem. Never. ”

* * *

Those are the words with which Prime Minister Netanyahu, then serving his first tour as the democratically elected leader of Israel, spoke of Jerusalem in his address to a Joint Meeting of the Congress on July 10, 1996. When he declared the city would never be divided again, and repeated the word “never,” the chamber erupted in applause. In the C-Span broadcast, Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks on Jerusalem begin at 41:27. Members of both parties leapt to their feet, giving the declaration of the Israeli leader an unambiguous expression of approval on behalf of the American people.

When the applause died down — the ovation lasted nearly a full minute — Mr. Netanyahu said this: “We shall not allow a Berlin Wall to be erected inside Jerusalem. We will not drive out anyone, but neither shall we be driven out of any quarter, any neighborhood, any street of our eternal capital.”

This is why the Drudge Report this morning has up the headline “Firestorm in Congress.” It links to the Associated Press dispatch of Monday reporting that “a bipartisan parade of influential lawmakers and interest groups has taken aim at the administration’s decision to publicly condemn Israel for its announcement of new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting on Tuesday and then openly vent bitter frustration on Friday.”

Politics, of course, can change over the course of 14 years, and a lot has happened since Mr. Netanyahu addressed the two houses of Congress. And we will never forget being reminded, by Senator Moynihan, of how the first Likud prime minister, Menachem Begin, used to say that he didn’t want the question of Jerusalem to be settled on the Capitol Hill. But there is a reason Mr. Netanyahu was greeted with such an ovation on his Jerusalem declaration — the broad recognition within America’s polity of the justness of Israel’s claims.

The New York Sun

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