By Ira Stoll
The Trump administration, breaking with Obama administration precedent, has issued an official State Department document recognizing Jerusalem as part of Israel.
And the New York Times, as is typical, entirely missed the news, preferring instead to obsess about Israeli settlements and to portray the Trump administration, inaccurately, as truckling to pressure from Arab monarchs.
The State Department reference to “Israel, Jerusalem” amid a list of countries and capital cities — such as “Egypt, Cairo,” “Lebanon, Beirut” and “Iraq, Baghdad” — came in an appendix to an obscure government document — a report from the State Department’s inspector general detailing a review of the US government’s Middle East Broadcasting Networks. Though it was initially labeled “sensitive but unclassified,” and intended for internal State Department use, the document was distributed by the department this week to a public email list that included The Algemeiner.
The 20-page report, dated February 2017, mostly concerns mundane regulatory matters, such as the disclosure that the Middle East Broadcasting Networks“had not conducted a fire drill at its headquarters in Springfield, Virginia since occupying it in 2004.”
Buried in Appendix B, on page 17 of the pdf, is a list detailing the staffing and funding of the broadcasting networks, which provide television, radio and internet news directed at Arab-language audiences. That list includes 16 full-time employees and two contractors in “Israel, Jerusalem.”
Under both the George W. Bush administration and the Obama administration, the State Department had refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The administrations went so far as to have the Justice Department litigate against Menachem Zivotofsky, a child born to American parents in Jerusalem, Israel who wanted that birthplace listed as such on his US passport. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which, unfortunately, declined to force the executive branch to adhere to the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which stated as “the Policy of the United States” that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel.” President Obama’s White House went so far as to strike out, ostentatiously, the word “Israel” from a press release with the transcript of Mr. Obama’s remarks at the funeral of Shimon Peres, refusing even to acknowledge the obvious fact that Israel’s former prime minister had been laid to rest in a cemetery within the borders of his own country and its capital.
The New York Times missed the news of the State Department document disclosing an apparent policy shift by the executive branch. You are reading about it here, first, instead. This newspaper, unlike the New York Times, is attuned to the issue rather than, like the Times, institutionally hostile to the idea of a Jewish or Israeli Jerusalem.
What Israel-related news does the Times report today in place of the good news about the State Department and Jerusalem? The newspaper gives the inaccurate impression that the Trump administration is taking orders from Arab monarchs. The Times reports:
Arab officials have warned Mr. Trump and his advisers that if they want cooperation, the United States cannot make life harder for them with provocative pro-Israel moves.
The White House seems to be taking the advice. Mr. Trump delayed his plan to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem after Arab leaders told him that doing so would cause angry protests among Palestinians, who also claim the city as the capital of a future state. And after meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan last week, Mr. Trump authorized a statement that, for the first time, cautioned Israel against building new West Bank settlements beyond existing lines….
The discussions underscore the evolution of the new president’s attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as he delves deeper into the issue. During the campaign and the post-election transition, Mr. Trump presented himself as an unstinting supporter of Israel who would quickly move the embassy and support new settlement construction without reservation. But he has tempered that to a degree.
That represents wishful thinking by the Times. If Mr. Trump is avoiding “pro-Israel moves,” as the Times claims he is, what is with this State Department document referring, in black and white, to “Israel, Jerusalem”? Is it a Washington-style gaffe in which someone accidentally utters something that everyone knows is true? Or is it a subtle but nonetheless intentional message that, notwithstanding pressure from Arab leaders, Mr. Trump intends to keep his campaign promises and follow the American law recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital? The Times not only doesn’t answer the question, it doesn’t even let its readers in on the news, because the paper’s journalists are too busy, instead, obsessing about the settlements.
(c) 2017 The Algemeiner Journal