President's Lawyer: Jerusalem = Crimea

While virtually all politicos and pundits eyes were focused on the elections, President Obama’s solicitor general Monday was quietly dropping a bombshell in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a case being heard by the high court involving a U.S. citizen’s passport, Donald Verrilli in oral arguments compared the status of Jerusalem to that of the Crimea. Verrilli is the president's lawyer and seen as his voice on all true constitutional questions.

Just as U.S. consular officials would not list “Crimea, Russia” on a birth certificate for an American citizen born in that region seized by Russia earlier this year, we could not inscribe “Jerusalem, Israel” on nine-year old Menachem Zivotovsky’s birth certificate without officially recognizing Jerusalem as a part of the Jewish State. Obama appointee Justice Sonia Sotomayor went so far as to brand any recognition of united Jerusalem by the U.S. as “a lie.”

The Obama administration’s non-position position has been that Jerusalem’s status was laid out in elaborate detail by Victoria Nuland in this famous response to a reporter’s question in 2012. The then-State Department press secretary Nuland danced around the question by saying the status of Jerusalem is the subject of “final status negotiations.”

But this week, the President’s lawyer went much further than Nuland’s nuances when on Monday he compared Jerusalem’s status to that of Crimea. The Crimea is that portion of Ukraine overrun by pro-Russian rebels and effectively incorporated into the Russian republic.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was roundly condemned by the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, and to a greater or lesser degree, the countries of the NATO alliance. Russia’s aggression triggered economic, legal, and diplomatic sanctions imposed by America and our allies.

Young Menachem’s parents have gone to court seeking to force this administration to honor a 2002 law signed by President George W. Bush. That measure officially recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and calls for the U.S. to move our embassy to that historic city. The Zivotovskys are asking only that their son’s U.S. passport list Jerusalem as a part of Israel.

Ironically, George W. Bush issued one of his disputed “signing statements” as he penned his signature to the measure (which included many other items favored by his administration). Mr. Bush demurred from following through on those portions of the bill relating to Jerusalem.

It was these “signing statements” that candidate Barack Obama had denounced when he stumped the country. He noted that he, unlike Mr. Bush, had taught constitutional law. And therefore he, unlike the incumbent, would not resort to this unconstitutional practice should he occupy the Oval Office.

We might say President Obama has “evolved” on this matter, too. Now, he sends his solicitor general into the nation’s highest court to seethe with hostility to Israel.

It was one thing for Victoria Nuland in 2012 to repeatedly dodge the reporter’s question about the capital of Israel. Despite the outrage her statement provoked then from American friends of Israel, she did not, she claimed, prejudge what that final status for Jerusalem would be.

Now, the Obama administration’s mask has dropped. In publicly comparing Jerusalem to Crimea, President Obama’s top lawyer is branding Israel’s position in Jerusalem illegitimate, the product of naked aggression.

Where to start in responding to this dog’s breakfast of errors? First, Jerusalem was reunited in 1967 as a result of a defensive war fought by Israel. Egypt’s dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser had rallied the Arabs to “drive the Jews into the sea.” Jordan joined in Egypt’s war effort. So did Syria. All of those states were defeated in that unprovoked war.

Second, Jerusalem has always been viewed by the Jews as their capital. And it was so viewed by most of the civilized world. And no other occupying power has ever made Jerusalem its capital. Not the Greeks, the Romans, the Muslims, the Crusaders, the Turks, the British, the Jordanians. Not one of these powers has ever named Jerusalem as its capital.

Third, President Obama went to a reunited Berlin in 2008 to deliver an address before adoring masses of Germans. He has never questioned Germany’s right to name its own capital, even though Germany fought two destructive world wars against the United States. The historic irony abounds because it was in Berlin that the Holocaust of the Jews was plotted by the Nazis.

How disgraceful it is, therefore, to see President Obama’s solicitor-general branding united Jerusalem as illegitimate by likening its status to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The new Republican Congress needs to address this shameful Obama administration policy. Leaders of the new House and Senate majorities should use the authority the American people have just overwhelmingly conferred upon them to right the Obama administration’s historic wrong. They should heed the advice of Winston Churchill: “Let the Jews have Jerusalem: It is they who made it famous.”

Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison are senior fellows at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

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