Sunday, July 29, 2012

That Nation's Capital

During elections politicians focused on their potential to win, will say almost anything to influence their listeners that they represent the right person at the right time for the job.  The incumbent had his chance and as chance had it, solutions to problems that this candidate sees clear, simply eluded the current holder of the position in question.  All too often some of the promises represent a kind of political dynamite, far easier to enunciate than to implement.

Two days after Joe Clark was sworn in as prime minister of Canada in 1979 he announced his government's plans to move Canada's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  This was in fulfilment of a promise he had made during the election.  Quite the national and international fuss erupted; Canadian diplomats at what was then the Department of External Affairs anticipated a disaster in the making as Arab and Muslim countries' reaction.

Which would harm Canada's international reputation, since no country in the world other than Israel recognizes Jerusalem as the nation's capital, due to similar claims over "al Quds" by the Arab and Islamic world.  This is one of the most disputed territories in the world.  As far as Joe Clark was concerned, he felt it a legitimate move in recognition of the recent peace accord signed between Israel and Egypt.

He was soon enough brought up short in his perception when the Egyptian ambassador to Canada stated: "This move by Canada is going to put lots of obstacles and spill gas on the existing flames, which is not going to help the peace settlement in the area", according to Hassan Fahmy.  The Government of Canada realized, belatedly, the penalties involved in proceeding: the loss of oil imports, international contracts and credibility.

If the United States were indeed to move its embassy to Jerusalem, a different kind of reaction would result.  It has much less to lose than Canada did thirty years ago.  It has the kind of international authority that Canada has never had.  Although the United Nations does not recognize and will not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital thanks to the influence of the Arab/Muslim bloc, the United States could act unilaterally. 

In doing so, it could move its support for and relationship with Israel beyond dispute.

It would also have the effect of encouraging other countries - although they would likely represent a handful of the international community - of finally recognizing Israel's heritage and place in the Middle East.  All other Arab and Muslim countries have their capitals, and no one disputes them or challenges them for that right to declare their capitals. 

The current Conservative-led Government of Canada has been refreshingly forthright in its support for the State of Israel and the people of Israel.  It has defended its right to exist in the Middle East, and its right to respond to forceful violence to protect itself and its people.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Cabinet have all stated their support for Israel, despite claims of alienating its neighbours.

Canada has traditionally, conventionally, followed in the footsteps of the United States in the international arena, as a neighbour, a trading partner, and an ally.  Perhaps it hadn't yet occurred to Prime Minister Harper to make the leap, and initiate a focus within the international community on Israel's right to declare its capital.  It's possible that were the United States to do so, Canada would follow, in solidarity with both the U.S. and Israel.

When Jerusalem was under the control of other Middle East countries not all people representing different ethnicities and religions were permitted to access their historical, treasured places of worship; Jews were forbidden to approach what the Arabs claim to be their third-most-sacred place, and what Jews declare to represent the most sacred and treasured symbol of their heritage: The Temple Mount.

In 1995 the United States passed a law acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, paving the way for the U.S. embassy to move there from Tel Aviv.  Since then a succession of presidents has side-lined the issue by signing waivers in suspension of that law.  On his current visit to Israel, challenger for the presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney spoke of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, pledging to move the U.S. embassy if he became president.

"A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city, and Jerusalem is Israel's capital.  I think it's long been the policy to ultimately have our embassy in the nation's capital of Jerusalem", he said in an interview with CNN.

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