By Hillel Fendel and Chaim Silberstein
Once again we see that no matter what happens, Yerushalayim keeps popping up in the center of world events. Just last week, the Democratic Party was innocently preparing the re-election bid of the incumbent leader of the free world, when it abruptly found itself having to deal with a major brouhaha concerning its omission of Jerusalem from its platform – and an even larger commotion when it put it back in.
It was not immediately clear which part of the debacle – the beginning, end, or middle – was the most embarrassing, awkward and vote-costly for the Democrats.
It began when protests erupted from various quarters against the platform’s omission of Jerusalem. Among those complaining were the Orthodox Union, the Republican Jewish Coalition, and some Israeli Knesset Members. The OU stated, “At a time when Arab leaders persistently… deny the ancient Jewish connection to our holy city, the decision of national leaders of the Democratic Party to go silent on this issue is extremely disappointing… Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and America’s national leaders do no service to the people of the Mideast or the world by refusing to acknowledge [this].”
An official Republican Party statement charged that the Obama administration is “painfully out of touch with the mainstream of the Jewish community, which knows that Jerusalem… must remain the undivided capital of the Jewish State of Israel.”
From both wings of the Israeli Knesset also came condemnation. Meretz party chair MK Zahava Gal-On expressed concern that Jerusalem was not “on the agenda of the Democrats,” while Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Danny Danon, of the Likud’s more nationalist wing, said the omission stemmed from Obama’s hostility to Israel. “The things Obama says about Jewish rights in Jerusalem are… an ongoing policy,” Danon said. “We can clearly say that he is no friend of the State of Israel.”
In response, the Democrats tried damage control, at Obama’s behest, but it backfired. At the convention itself, the party changed the platform, adding three short sentences about Jerusalem’s future as Israel’s undivided capital and it being subject to negotiations. This was supposed to be a nod to Israel’s supporters, though the thought of negotiating one’s holy capital with one’s enemies is not a particularly serene one; see below.
Approval of the change was supposed to be made official by a voice vote, requiring an “easy” two-thirds majority. It wasn’t so simple, however, and the chairman’s confusion was painfully apparent when the vocal “aye” and “nay” votes were heard equally loudly. He called for another vote, and then a third, with the same result each time – until finally he overrode both his hearing and democratic compunctions and declared, “In the opinion of the chair, 2/3 of the delegates have voted in the affirmative and the resolution has been adopted.”
Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin, the leading candidate to be Israel’s next president, said that the addition of Jerusalem to the platform was no reason for optimism, because its original omission had been no oversight. “I am certain that President Obama restored Jerusalem to the platform only because of political and electoral pressure,” Rivlin said, “and because of the sharp criticism in Israel and the U.S.”
The Republicans were also quick on the draw to capitalize on the Democratic flip-flop. The Republican Jewish Coalition released an ad for Jewish newspapers in states with sizeable Jewish populations, charging that the Democrats are “split when it comes to supporting Israel…. It’s become painfully clear that this party is no longer the Democratic Party of our parents’ generation.”
Even many Democrats are still unhappy with the corrected party platform. Some were disappointed that it still does not say Israel is America’s most reliable ally in the Middle East, while others bemoaned the lack of a declaration that the Arab refugee issue will be resolved only within the confines of a PA state.
And of course, the Palestinian Authority was quick to condemn. A top aide to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said a failure to recognize the PA claims in Jerusalem, as in the revised platform, will “destroy the peace process” and lead to “endless war.”
This threat is actually somewhat laughable, in the light of a most fascinating development in the field of Israeli revisionist history. Renowned “New Historian” Prof. Benny Morris, famous for having publicized alleged Israeli massacres such as Dir Yassin and more, and for having refused to serve in the reserves in Judea and Samaria, has lately taken a decidedly hawkish stance. He said that it is mainly due to Arab intransigence and desire to destroy Israel totally that the current Mideast conflict “has no solution.”
Morris has just published his ninth book on the topic, and says it will be his last: “I have written enough already on a conflict that has no solution, thanks chiefly to the consistent Palestinian negation of the two-state arrangement.” His current book aims to “expose the goals of the Palestinian national movement, which are to destroy the Jewish national enterprise and to inherit all of Palestine for the Arabs and Islam.”
The efforts to have Jerusalem included in the platform of what was long a Jewish “household” party in the United States shows that the struggle for world acceptance of Jewish control over its own historic holy city is far from a done deal. If anything, it could be that the newly included clause emphasizing that Jerusalem is subject to future negotiations might have negative repercussions. “You fought to have this clause included,” Israel supporters will be told, “so certainly you won’t thwart fair-and-square negotiations!”
Yet, what is there to negotiate? Should we part with the Temple Mount and its Western Wall? Should we give away the Old City and its Jewish Quarter? Should we agree to another wall down the middle of the city, a gun-rest for Arab snipers as they aim at Jewish targets? Should we agree to have the tens of thousands of Jews in Pisgat Ze’ev, Gilo, and other neighborhoods living in enclaves surrounded by the Palestinian Authority?
We have no choice, and there is nothing to negotiate: Jerusalem is the Eternal Holy City of the Jewish People and the undivided capital of the State of Israel, nothing more and nothing less. The Democratic Party platform will simply have to be amended once again.
Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel’s minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.