Monday, October 27, 2014

Jerusalem, the Eternal Capital of Israel

Rabbi Ari Zivotofsky and his son, Menachem Binyamin
Should the United States recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Yes, I think it should. Does it matter to me if they do?  As an Orthodox Jew, I may be a minority of one on this issue, but I could not care less about whether there is an official recognition of that by the United States or any other country.

That may surprise a few people. Since I am such a big supporter of the State, why wouldn’t I like the international community to recognize Israel’s capital, Jerusalem? Well, I would like them to. But I don’t really care that much if they do or don’t.

For me and for every other religious Jew; or any Jew with a sense of history, Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel. This belief extends even beyond the Jewish community. Certainly Christians believe it. As should anyone with an appreciation of the bible. Or at least they should understand it. It is where the seat of Israel’s government is.

So why don’t I care? To the best of my knowledge - that the US doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has no bearing on anything of significance at all.  The relationship between the US and Israel has never been stronger despite some disagreements between the 2 countries. And most world governments recognize and support Israel’s right to exist and have embassies there.  This despite their incessant criticism of Israel’s settlements policy. And recent public pronouncements by friendly countries like Great Britain to recognize the - as of yet non existent - State of Palestine. From their myopic point of view, they may feel it’s the right thing to do. But that in no way means they do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. They do. They don’t recognize Israel’s capital?! So what?!

The reason the US and almost every other country does not recognize Israel’s capital is simply because they do not want to upset the Arabs and much of the Muslim world that claims Jerusalem for themselves.

What would happen if the US did all of a sudden change their policy and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? Probably nothing. The Arabs might complain. But I doubt there would be any negative repercussions. Especially if the recognition would only extend to West Jerusalem.

But at the same time there would be no material benefit for Israel from doing that either. I’m sure that the US sees that and says, ‘Why change a policy that has been in effect since the establishment of the State? One that has not really harmed anyone and from which no one will gain? ‘Why rock the boat?!’ ‘What if it did "provoke uproar throughout the Arab and Muslim world."’? ‘Is it worth it?’

Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky’s credentials are beyond impressive and his accomplishments in both the religious and academic sphere make him a man with few peers. Needless to say, I am a fan. Rabbi Zivotofsky’s wants his son, Menachem, to be considered by the United States to have been born in Israel, not just in Jerusalem without a country. He is challenging the United States on this issue in the Supreme Court. From an article in USA Today
Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky just turned 12.
For 11 of those years, he has been the protagonist in a legal battle that the U.S. government warns could "provoke uproar throughout the Arab and Muslim world." Now the Supreme Court is weighing in — for the second time.
Young Menachem's offense? He was born in Jerusalem. His parents, Ari and Naomi, want his birthplace listed as "Israel" on his passport. But ever since Israel was recognized in 1948, the official U.S. policy has been that Jerusalem is a city unto itself. 
Many people seem to be bothered by the lack of US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or even that it is a part of Israel.  

I’m not sure why this is such an urgent matter. Some of my own grandchildren were born in Jerusalem and don’t have Israel listed on their US passports. And I could not care less about that. 

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court will be hearing the case shortly… and come to a decision. Whatever they decide will be fine with me. But I wouldn’t have brought this case to them. This is not a hill I want to die on. If I were going to petition any of the 3 branches of the US government about Israel, it would not be on this issue.

I know all the arguments in favor of it. And I don’t even disagree with them. One such argument is that even in the circumstance that there will be a 2 state solution  where East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state (as was agreed to in the Oslo Accords by then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak) no one says that West Jerusalem would not remain in Israeli hands. Why not recognize at least West Jerusalem as a part of Israel and its capital? I think that’s right. But as I said, Who cares?

It is also a fact that during their campaigns all Presidential candidates have pledged to move the US embassy to from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  And they never do it once elected. Does that bother me? Not really.

So even though I would be happy for Rabbi Zivotofsky if the Supreme Court rules in his favor, I don’t see how that will enhance the quality of anyone’s life anywhere. Nor will it bring peace to Israel. Is it the right thing for the US to do? Yes. Definitely. Does it matter even a whit to me? No. I know the truth.  Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel. Who cares if the world doesn’t say so? Yet.