Opinion

Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, a Well-known Fact

Those who refuse to recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people won't acknowledge that Jerusalem is the capital of the country they'd like to wish out of existence

A view of Jerusalem, showing the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock mosque on December 6, 2017.
Oded Bality

When asked to name the capitals of different countries, some people will have difficulty recalling that the capital of Canada is Ottawa and the capital of Australia is Canberra, but few will have a problem naming the capital of Israel. It’s Jerusalem, of course. Then what’s the problem with acknowledging this well-known fact, as the president of the United States did last week? Who doesn’t want these words to leave their lips, and who is enraged when hearing others say them? And who trembles in fear when hearing them?

Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for the past 68 years, and the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Those who refuse to recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people will not acknowledge that Jerusalem is the capital of the country they would like to wish out of existence. In any case, they deny the historical connection between Jerusalem and the Jewish people.

These are the benighted Palestinian leaders, whether belonging to Fatah or Hamas. These are the sworn enemies of Israel in Tehran, the Iranian ayatollahs. These are the leaders of countries that refuse to have diplomatic relations with Israel. They not only refuse to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel's capital but are enraged when they hear anyone else acknowledging it.

But how about the friends of Israel in the capitals of Western Europe who have diplomatic relations with Israel, whose ambassadors present their credentials to the president of Israel in Jerusalem, and whose leaders address the Knesset in Jerusalem when they visit Israel? Why won’t they acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and why do they criticize the president of the United States when he declares that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital? Strip away the veil of hypocrisy and internal politics that affect their attitude to Israel, and what remains is their desire to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

They mistakenly consider the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital one of the bargaining chips that need to be put on the table when and if negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians take place. In other words, they expect the Palestinians to demand concessions from Israel in return for acknowledging that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

If they think they're handing the Palestinians a strong card before entering negotiations they are mistaken. They are putting an obstacle in the path of the resumption of negotiations that ceased when President Barack Obama, on entering the White House, demanded that all building activity beyond the 1949 armistice lines be stopped, thinking he was advancing the peace process. And possibly they take seriously the bellicose statements by Palestinian and Iranian spokesmen that the American acknowledgement that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital will plunge the region into a world war.

The Palestinians, especially those living in East Jerusalem, know well that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. The majority of East Jerusalem Palestinians would prefer to live on the Israeli side of the border in Jerusalem rather than in a Palestinian state if one were established. They don't take seriously the statement by the Hamas spokesman that American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will open the gates of hell for Israel, and that the Palestinian leaders’ call for three “days of rage” will be followed by an intifada the likes of which we have not seen.

Surprisingly, even some Israelis seem to regret Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Is it their dislike of Trump that makes them critical of anything he does or says? Or have they bought into the conception that acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital must await the successful conclusion of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, regardless of when that will take place? In other words, that acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital must be held hostage to a Palestinian willingness to arrive at a peace agreement with Israel. That may take a while.