In 1995, Douglas Feith helped Senators Bob Dole and Jon Kyl draft a bill requiring the federal government to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Twenty-three years after the bill was passed—with overwhelming bipartisan majorities—the Trump administration has put plans in place to comply with the law. The arguments made by Feith in 1995 remain no less pertinent today:
Inasmuch as the essence of the Arab-Israeli conflict is legitimacy, the essence of the legitimacy issue is Israel’s right to sovereignty in Jerusalem. If Israelis do not have the right to sovereignty there, they can hardly justify sovereignty anywhere.
Jerusalem has been central to Jewish nationhood for 3,000 years. The Jews’ national movement, after all, is Zionism, Zion being Jerusalem. The Arabs understand this, too, which is why the importance of Jerusalem in Arab politics, diplomacy, philosophy, and literature increased as the struggle against Zionism intensified.
By relocating our embassy to Jerusalem, we would end our anomalous policy of refusing to recognize Israel’s sovereignty in its own capital. We would proclaim that Israel’s legitimacy in Zion is not an open question for us. This would signal that we expect all parties to the conflict—not just Israel—to pursue peace on the basis of realism.
In the ongoing Arab-Israeli negotiations, moving the embassy would not prejudice any issue that is actually open. . . . Across the political spectrum in Israel, [therefore], there is a profound commitment to retaining Jerusalem forever as the undivided capital. The cause of peace will be served by whatever helps persuade Yasir Arafat that he will not get American support or Israeli consent to divide Jerusalem and establish part of it as the capital of a new Arab state.
The necessary adjustment in expectations on the Arab side would be difficult and even painful. Passionate cries—and worse—would ensue, but in the end the process would be constructive.