Come to order, class; it is quiz time. Name the capitals of: Delaware, Vermont, Israel.
The first two are difficult. But almost everyone knows that Israel's capital is Jerusalem. So why is the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv? A timely question, that.
The United States has undertaken to sell sophisticated weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is working to prevent the occurrence on Israel's eastern front of what has occurred on Israel's southern front: peace. So in the interests of evenhandedness, prudence and common sense it is time to bring diplomacy into conformity with reality and reason by moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
On Sept. 15, 1980, Ronald Reagan said of Jerusalem: "Its centrality to Jewish life is known to all. Jerusalem is now and will continue to be one city undivided, with continuing free access for all." Last week he again said that he favored a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.
But the bureaucracy's gears ground and out came an obfuscating "clarification" of the president's perfectly clear statement. It said "the future status of Jerusalem is to be determined through negotiations." However, it also said that Jerusalem "should remain undivided with free access to the holy sites."
Given that opposition to redividing the city, and given the certainty that Israel's government will be in Jerusalem as long as there is an Israel, U.S. policy must be that the only serious subjects for negotiations are codification of free access to, and perhaps some control of, the holy sites by the relevant religious constituencies. Negotiations can hardly be impeded by the presence of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. That presence would simply accord with an indisputable fact-- Jerusalem is the capital--and a non-negotiable commitment: the United States does not favor, and no conceivable Israeli government would tolerate, redividing or "internationalizing" the city.
The relocation of the embassy should be done in conjunction with a formal ratification by the United States of three points that have been at least semi-endorsed by various administrations and could hardly be disavowed now:
First, the United States opposes creation of an independent Palestinian state between Jordan and Israel.
Second, the United States supports the right of Israel to secure borders, which cannot be those of 1967, and which must be settled by direct negotiations between Israel and Jordan. The United States insists that this is the intent of the U.N. resolution 242 and 338 correctly construed in light of its 1967 legislative history.
Third, the United States recognizes that Jerusalem is and ought forever to remain the capital of Israel.
The principal reason that will be given for not moving the U.S. Embassy is that Arab nations, and especially Saudi Arabia, would object. But that is one excellent reason for doing it. The Saudis, even more than the Israelis, need a demonstration that U.S. policy is not permanently hostage to Saudi preferences.
To facilitate the selling of AWACS, the U.S. government embraced the idea that the Saudi regime is moderate and statesmanlike. Since then, the U.S. government has managed to avoid noticing that the "new" Saudi peace plan is not noticeably new. Indeed, it is like the Holy Roman Empire, which was neither holy, nor Roman nor an empire.
The "Saudi peace plan" is hardly Saudi--it has PLO fingerprints all over it. It envisions not peace but the phased liquidation of Israel. And it is less a plan for negotiation than a set of demands that make negotiations difficult. It envisions a Palestinian state-- which means a PLO state--with East Jerusalem as its capital. No wonder the Saudis say the Soviet Union, of which the PLO is a client, has an "important role" to play in the plan.
The plan calls for the contraction of Israel, geographically, to the 1967 borders. It also calls for the dissolution of Israel, philosophically and morally. That is, it demands the "right of return" for Palestinian Arabs. That would divest Israel of an essential attribute of sovereignty--control of immigration. That would mean abandonment of the idea of Israel as a Jewish state, and the overwhelming of Israel, demographically.
Surely the aim of U.S. policy now should be to bring the Saudi regime into conformity with the recent U.S. description of it as moderate and statesmanlike. The first step should be to bring the Saudi regime to its senses by demonstrating that we have come to ours. The most efficient way to do that quickly is by demonstrating, through relocation of the U.S. Embassy, that we consider some questions closed, including the status of Jerusalem as Israel's indivisible capital.