Diplomacy sometimes creates moments of delusion, when learned men and women seem to lose touch with reality and speak in confusing sentences. That fact is on clear display when it comes to the issue of Israel’s capital.
Let’s be clear here: In every reasonable, logical way, the capital of Israel is Jerusalem. That is where the seat of government resides, where the country’s parliament stands and legislates and where the President, Prime Minister and Cabinet have their offices and meet. Whatever some governments or politicians might say to the contrary, this fact should be accepted by everyone.
On Monday, America’s top court ruled on the case of 12-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem and wanted his passport to state Israel as his country of birth.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Sadly, it isn’t. In reality, in many situations where the U.S. government talks of Jerusalem, it refuses to say in what country that city is actually located. Indeed, official U.S. policy says the status of Jerusalem is unresolved, subject to the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Jerusalem is the city that was first made the capital of the Jewish state by King David 3,000 years ago, where Solomon built the ancient Jewish Temple.
If you want proof of how crazy the current U.S. policy gets, I recommend watching a 2012 exchange at the State Department, when a journalist asked the U.S. spokesperson what the capital of Israel is. It happened after an awkward incident, when the itinerary for a U.S. official traveling to the Middle East reportedly listed cities and capitals, including Jerusalem, Israel. The State Department said the announcement was “issued in error,” then released a new one, in which the name Jerusalem floated by itself, unmoored to any country.
As a result, a reporter asked the spokesperson where Jerusalem is. The response sounds like an Abbott and Costello routine.
Q: What is the capital of Israel?
U.S. official: Our embassy, as you know, is located in Tel Aviv.
Q: So does that mean you regard Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel?
U.S. official: The issue on Jerusalem has to be settled through negotiations.
It went on and on. Turns out, the United States is unable to name the capital of one of its main allies.
Congress fought the executive for years on this. In 1995 and again in 2002, U.S. law directed the president to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The law still stands, but every six months, the President issues a waiver. On Monday, the Supreme Court sided with the Obama administration, denying the boy’s request that his passport acknowledge that he was born in Israel.
The court was right in saying the executive should have wide latitude on foreign policy. That, however, doesn’t mean the U.S. stance should remain unchanged. America looks foolish, tying itself in knots with a convoluted, illogical policy.