Who Lost Jerusalem?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
It is difficult to imagine a benign explanation for the decision of the Democratic Party to delete from its platform language supporting the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel,” the Democratic platform declared four years ago. “The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.” This year the platform declares that President Obama and the Democratic Party “maintain an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.” It speaks of the president having boosted security assistance to Israel, but it doesn’t say anything about Jerusalem one way or another. The name of Jerusalem does not appear in the platform.
We first read about this in a brief bulletin of the Weekly Standard, and, while we haven’t done a double-blind study, our soundings suggest it has caught the national Jewish leadership flatfooted. It is going to be illuminating to see what explanation emerges. No less an authority than the Congress of the United States has established, as a matter of law, a “Statement of the Policy of the United States” that “Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected” and that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Israel.” It has also stated as a matter of law that the American embassy in Israel should be moved to Jerusalem.
The law was passed in 1995. The State Department has fought tooth and nail to block not only the move of the Embassy to Jerusalem but any action that might signal recognition of Israel’s just claims. Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have all invoked waivers to avoid implementing the law. All the more reason, though, to include Jerusalem language in the party platforms. The Republican Party did so, this year, saying: “We support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state with secure, defensible borders; and we envision two democratic states – Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine – living in peace and security.”
The GOP platform in 2008, incidentally, was even blunter than the platform this year. Said it: “We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.” So it is possible to say that both parties have softened their line a bit. But the Democratic platform this year is a complete abandonment of the Jerusalem question. It is a symptom of a party that wants to have it both ways — posturing as the stronger of the two parties in respect of the Jewish state even while retreating in its statement of the broad framework.
A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as trying to put the best face on the party’s abandonment of its Jerusalem plank, but Governor Romney was right as rain to issue a statement marking the retreat. “It is unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama’s shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” the Wall Street Journal quoted Mr. Romney as saying in a statement. Your editors have been covering what we call the “Battle of Jerusalem” for more than 20 years now, and if, in decades to come, Jerusalem is lost, this is going to be seen by historians as a significant moment. Let us hope it does not come to that.