Capital of Israel: Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?

20 May

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem. Israel designated Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, yet most countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv due to ongoing political debate with the Palestinians. This has given rise to an unprecedented situation whereby a sovereign state – Israel – is denied the diplomatic right to choose the location of its capital city.

The U.S. Congress sought to reverse this travesty with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, passed by overwhelming bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate. The act states that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.”

Since then, a parade of U.S. presidents have promised to uphold this pledge. But since the congressional act allows the President to implement a waiver at six-month intervals, that’s exactly what has happened every six months since 1995.

This has created a situation whereby politicians, the media, and the world at large routinely ignore the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Last month, the Washington Post printed this ditty:

Obama’s more aggressive message this year reflects the increasing concern in Washington, Tel Aviv and other capitals about Iran’s enrichment program, which Israel believes will be used to produce a nuclear weapon.

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal has referred to Israel’s capital as Tel Aviv, noting the “strains between Washington and Tel Aviv” (“U.S., Israel Spar in Public, But Defense Ties are Strong,” May 4, 2010), while CNN referred to “an explosion in the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv” (“Blast in Israeli Capital,” January 22, 2006).

This one really takes the prize: The London Guardian correctly referred to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – but then printed this retraction/correction:

The caption on a photograph featuring passengers on a tram in Jerusalem… wrongly referred to the city as the Israeli capital. The Guardian style guide states: “Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is.”

I’m not sure what can be done about all this, but one young man has taken the fight to court, and just last month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that American citizens born in Jerusalem can list their birthplace as “Israel.”

Even Republican candidate Ron Paul, long known as a critic of Israel, made this recent statement:

“If Israel wants their capital to be Jerusalem, then the United States should honor that. How would we like it if some other nation said, ‘We decided to recognize New York City as your capital instead, so we will build our embassy there’?”

In the meantime, with or without “international approval,” the city that King David designated as the capital of Israel and the Jewish people is 45 years unified, 3,000-plus years Jewish, and still going strong.

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