It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities”
Unlike the classic Dickens work, this week’s presidential campaign was a tale of one city Jerusalem, and the different way it was handled by the two different campaigns, One handled it as if this was the age of foolishness, the other as the age of wisdom. One refused to give its position on Israel’s capital publicly; the other stood in front of the panorama of the holy city over his shoulder and pronounced the city Israel’s capital.
During Thursday’s daily press briefing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn’t answer a simple question and turned the Q & A session into something out of an Abbot and Costello routine:
Reporter: What city does this Administration consider to be the capital of Israel? Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?
Jay Carney: Um… I haven’t had that question in a while. Our position has not changed. Can we, uh…
Reporter: What is the capital [of Israel]?
Jay Carney: You know our position.Reporter: I don’t.
Lester Kinsolving, World Net Daily: No, no. She doesn’t know, that’s why she asked.
Carney: She does know.
Reporter: I don’t.
Kinsolving: She does not know. She just said that she does not know. I don’t know.
Carney: We have long, lets not call on…
Kinsolving: Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?
Carney: You know the answer to that.
Kinsolving: I don’t know the answer. We don’t know the answer. Could you just give us an answer? What do you recognize? What does the administration recognize?
Carney: Our position has not changed.
Kinsolving: What position?
Carney then moved on to another question.
Jay Carney refused to outline the President’s position on Jerusalem because the truth would be damaging to the campaign. He was afraid an honest answer would further damage the support for the president’s cash-poor campaign amongst his donors that support Israel.
Mitt Romney chose Tisha B’Av, the day Jews across the world mourn the loss of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem, to make speech in the holy city. With about 400 Israelis in attendance (including his friend of 30 years Prime Minister Netanyahu), and the Temple Mount in the background the GOP candidate declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. Romney didn’t make the announcement as a big splash at an AIPAC convention, but said it almost matter-of-factly near the beginning of his speech:
It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.
Romney is not the first candidate to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, nor is the first to talk about moving our Embassy to Jerusalem as he told CNN later in the day.
Recognizing Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av was only Romney’s starting point. Romney was not overtly critical of Obama as he was on foreign soil, but he was critical nevertheless. He drew a clear distinction with the policies of the Obama Administration.
The biggest distinction was in tone. Romney spoke about issues important to supporters of Israel unencumbered by the need to balance positive statements about Israel with moral equivalences. He said good things about Israel without the need to criticize her at the same time, as does the administration in power.
Romney seemed to show an understanding that terrorism was not the result of something Israel was doing, as if to say the deeds of terrorists are some how justified, but it was an expression of hatred;
And tragedies like these are not reserved to the past. They are a constant reminder of the reality of hate, and the will with which it is executed upon the innocent.
He even used the word “terrorism” which was refreshing in its self. I believe it significant that he recognized that Americans have been victims of Palestinian terrorism:
At this time, we also remember the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were massacred at the Munich Olympics forty years ago. Ten years ago this week, 9 Israeli and American students were murdered in the terrorist attack at Hebrew University. And tragedies like these are not reserved to the past. They are a constant reminder of the reality of hate, and the will with which it is executed upon the innocent.
The GOP nominee drew a distinction with Obama with regards to Iran. As the Obama administration has spent much of the past three years trying to convince Israel not to defend herself against the possibility of Iranian nukes, Romney quoted Menacham Begin, seen by many in the diplomatic establishment as the most “hawkish” leader in Israeli history to argue that Israel must take care of its own defense, despite what other countries might say,:
It was Menachem Begin who said this about the Ninth of the month of Av: “We remember that day,” he said, “and now have the responsibility to make sure that never again will our independence be destroyed and never again will the Jew become homeless or defenseless.” “This,” Prime Minister Begin added, “is the crux of the problems facing us in the future.”
Quoting Begin was not an accident. Romney was signaling that he understood Israel’s predicament, being surrounded by nations who would see it destroyed. It was an understanding that only Israel can have a true understanding of her security needs and it must not gamble on safety issues.
And to drive the point home the GOP candidate explained;
To the north, Syria is on the brink of a civil war. The dictator in Damascus, no friend to Israel and no friend to America, slaughters his own people as he desperately clings to power.
Your other neighbor to the north, Lebanon, is under the growing and dangerous influence of Hezbollah.
After a year of upheaval and unrest, Egypt now has an Islamist President, chosen in a democratic election.
Without mentioning Obama Romney spoke about how this administration has been distancing itself from the Jewish state with one-sided public criticism, or by allowing others such as the UN to unfairly attack Israel.
And standing by Israel does not mean with military and intelligence cooperation alone.
We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel, voice their criticisms. And we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.
Romney put to shame Obama’s futile policy of reaching out to evil such as Iran. He talked about the immorality of the mullahs, their holocaust denial, then quoted Begin again, this time to show he believed their threats to be real:
As Prime Minister Begin put it, in vivid and haunting words, “if an enemy of [the Jewish] people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him.” We have seen the horrors of history. We will not stand by. We will not watch them play out again.”
It was a tale of one city-Jerusalem, but two Presidential campaigns. One spoke with wisdom, the other foolishness by hiding its intentions.
On Thursday, the Obama Press Secretary refused to speak about its own policy reminding observers of what President Obama said to then Russian President Mevedev, “in a second administration I would have more flexibility.” Obama wasn’t talking about Israel at the time but Carney’s lack of a response had the same meaning; the Administration was holding out for a second term, when unencumbered by the need to raise money or motivate voters, it could be even more one-sided in its demands on the Jewish State.
On Tisha B’Av the day Jews mourn the loss of the Temple, Jerusalem and so many other calamities Mitt Romney stood in Jerusalem with the Temple Mount over his shoulder and differentiated a future Romney administration from Obama on the Middle East. Calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel was a small part of his speech. Romney displayed an understanding of terrorism, of morality, and the security issues faced by Israel, which the present administration doesn’t (or has no desire) to understand. In short, Romney said he would be a partner in Israel’s quest to prevent another Tisha B’ Av tragedy.