“Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. 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 statement, taken from the 2008 Democratic Party platform, was removed from the Democrats’ 2012 platform last week, only to be reinstated by President Barack Obama after an onslaught of opposition. Fortunately, Obama made the right decision in reaffirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Jewish national identity was formed over 3,000 years ago in the land of Israel, with King David making Jerusalem the capital of the Israelite Kingdom in 1000 B.C.E. and his son, King Solomon, building the First Jewish Temple in Jerusalem 40 years later. Throughout history, Jews have regarded Jerusalem as the capital of their ancient ancestral homeland, facing Jerusalem during prayer in a similar fashion to Muslims who pray towards the Kaaba in Mecca. While the number of Jews in Israel has fluctuated across the centuries (the Jewish community significantly declined from massacres by Crusaders in the 12th century, for example), Jews have maintained a continuous presence in the land of Israel.
Therefore, as the only sovereign Jewish state, Israel has a right to declare Jerusalem as her capital. America’s denial of that right only isolates a valuable ally in the Middle East, and increases political tension in already troubled times considering Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Furthermore, it is not the Democrats’ role to dictate the capital city of an ally — after all, Americans would never grant Britain or France the right to determine whether Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States. Every autonomous, self-governing state has the right to decide their own capital city within their borders and control. Therefore, the political status of Jerusalem, although one of the most contentious issues in any future peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, can only be determined by Israel; it cannot be imposed by foreign nations or international bodies.
Furthermore, the clause that Obama reinstated into the 2012 Democratic platform not only called for Jerusalem to remain as the eternal capital of Israel, but also recognized the importance of Jerusalem continuing to remain open and accessible to all of the world’s faiths. This distinction is important because historically, access to holy cities for pilgrimages and worship has been limited. For example, from 313–637 C.E., Jews were prohibited from entering Jerusalem, and even today access to Mecca and Medina is strictly prohibited to non-Muslims. With Jerusalem under Israeli control, all religions will have access to their holy sites in the city.
It is also important, however, that Jerusalem not become a partisan issue in the upcoming presidential election because this will detract attention from more serious foreign policy issues like Iran’s nuclear program. Instead, American politicians should be concerting their efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capabilities, which would have dire consequences for the United States, Israel, and the entire Western world. Unfortunately, Jerusalem has already begun to turn into a partisan issue, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney asserting that Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus” for not standing by Israel and unequivocally declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. By officially declaring that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” in the Democrats’ 2012 platform, Obama has hopefully side-stepped a potentially very dangerous and distracting partisan debate on the heels of the upcoming election.