By Debra DeLee
An important case, Zivotofsky v. Clinton, is about to come before the U.S. Supreme Court. It relates to U.S. policy on Jerusalem, but isn't really about Jerusalem. Rather, it is about longstanding efforts by the U.S. Congress to wrest foreign policy-making authority away from the executive branch. How this case is decided will have far-reaching ramifications for America's policy, far beyond Jerusalem.
Americans for Peace Now (APN) has filed an "amicus brief" ("friend of the court") related to this case. Since this case involves a United States Constitutional issue, we, as an independent American, Jewish, Zionist organization, undertook this action on our own, without consultation with the Israeli Peace Now movement. Our brief supports the position of the Obama administration that the sole prerogative to determine U.S. foreign policy on sensitive issues like Jerusalem belongs to the executive branch. As it relates to Jerusalem, this position is consistent with the one taken by all U.S. presidents, Republicans and Democrats, since Israel was established.
We want to be clear: APN has always recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as well as Israeli sovereignty in West Jerusalem. This recognition is regardless of the policy of the U.S. or any other country, past or present. It is a matter of public record, which we proudly defend.
APN also recognizes a reality that may be difficult for some Israelis and American Jews to acknowledge: international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital will come only as part of a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians.
In all of our hearts, "Yerushalayim shel Ma'lah" - celestial Jerusalem - is and will forever be Israel's capital. However, 'Yerushalayim shel Matah" - mundane Jerusalem on the ground - poses delicate and volatile challenges. These challenges won't be resolved through acts of Congress, or by U.S. courts. They can only be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a peace agreement. And as most people have come to understand, such an agreement won't be possible without the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, whose borders will be determined through negotiations.
Our decision to weigh in on this case reflects these realities and our conviction that no party, foreign or domestic, should take actions that seek to prejudice the outcome of negotiations or foreclose a negotiated agreement on Jerusalem. The clear goal of this litigation is to do just that, by compelling the president to overturn six decades of U.S. policy and recognize Jerusalem -West and East - as Israel's capital. Doing so will destroy any possibility of a two-state solution, closing the door on the only solution that can guarantee Israel's survival as a Jewish state and a democracy.
Finally, let's be very clear: this case is not about the Zivotofsky family and its supporters trying to compel the Obama Administration to recognize West Jerusalem as part of sovereign Israel. In fact, their case doesn't argue for any distinction in U.S. policy between East and West Jerusalem. That's because their goal is to erase that distinction and take Jerusalem off the negotiating table - by securing U.S. recognition of all of Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital. Indeed, if the Supreme Court was to rule that West Jerusalem alone - but not East Jerusalem, including the Old City and places like Gilo and Ramot - was Israel's capital, supporters of this case would probably consider it huge defeat (and a victory for the Palestinians).
America's founding fathers sought to at least partially immunize the determination of foreign policy from the pressures and vagaries of passion and populism - forces to which the legislative branch are far more exposed than the executive. We believe that foreign policy issues related to Jerusalem are the quintessential example of why they believed, correctly, that it was necessary to do so.
Debra DeLee is the President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now