Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), the chairman of the House’s Europe Subcommittee, introduced the bill March 10, titled the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act of 2011, and it has garnered bipartisan support (10 Republicans and two Democrats are co-sponsoring it).
Every president since Bill Clinton has invoked the national security waiver in the 1995 law that first required the U.S. Embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem. And even if Congress sends the current president, Barack Obama, a law removing the waiver, informed speculation has it that the White House would ignore it, claiming it unconstitutionally challenges the president’s executive prerogative in setting foreign policy.
That would set the stage for a high profile legal challenge that would likely end up before the Supreme Court.
Such a bill invokes all kinds of responses.
Tempting? Oh, yes. What pro-Israel Jew doesn’t want Israel’s capital recognized by the United States and every great nation of the world?
Political? Yes, that too. Both parties are courting Jewish support with an eye on the 2012 election.
Dangerous? We can’t ignore that. U.S. recognition at such a volatile time for the Middle East could radicalize the Arab street even further and lead to a new round of violence, not just against Jewish targets, but American ones as well.
So, with all that in mind, is this bill worth it?
Yes; in fact, a resounding yes.
Even if you accept that Jerusalem will be divided one day into separate capital cities for Israel and a future Palestinian state, that doesn’t necessarily preclude recognizing it as Israel’s capital now. The devil would, of course, be in the details of the bill (wording such as “united” and “undivided” might have to be purged from its text).
We think there’s more to gain here than to lose. Israel’s right to Jerusalem would be recognized. The Palestinian Authority’s efforts to circumvent face-to-face negotiations by seeking international recognition of its statehood would be dealt a setback, and a strong message would reach Iran, and its Hezbollah and Hamas proxies, that the United States stands by its most important ally in the region.
Yes, there is risk built into this bill, but doing the right thing is never risk-free.