Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Missing Mr. Moynihan

Editorial of The New York Sun | December 7, 2017

As we begin what might be called the Jerusalem Era in American foreign policy, we find ourselves missing Daniel Patrick Moynihan. It was the magnificent senator of New York who began agitating for our recognition of Jerusalem and against the State Department’s intransigence on this head. How nice it would have been had he survived to savor this moment, when an American president laid out the logic that Moynihan himself began to sketch.

We first experienced the Moynihan treatment in the early 1990s, when the senator came to see us at the newspaper we were then editing, the Jewish Forward. He pulled out of his pocket a State Department telephone directory, which had Jerusalem listed as, in effect, its own country.* The senator, formerly America’s envoy at the United Nations and ambassador at India, ranted at our foreign service. He was eager to move forward with some kind of legislative action.

At the same time, Moynihan quoted a warning that he attributed to Israel’s sixth prime minister, Menachem Begin. It was that the Jerusalem question can’t be solved in the United States Congress. His point was that only Israel herself can decide where her capital is. Of course, Israel had long since done that, and his view was that it was up to us to acknowledge, to recognize it. Had he lived, the Democrats might have had a leading role in winning recognition.

Unfortunately, Moynihan was succeeded in the Senate by Hillary Clinton. She voted with Israel on proxy issues, like the requirement that the State Department honor any request for an American born in Jerusalem to be issued a passport listing the birthplace as Israel. Her heart wasn’t in it, though. Once she was state secretary, she went to court against the very Jerusalem measure passed unanimously by the senate of which she was at the time a member.

It will be pointed out, no doubt, that the president Mrs. Clinton served was, in Barack Obama, unwilling to recognize Israel’s rightful claims in respect of Jerusalem. In the years after Moynihan, the Democratic Party started to put distance between itself and Israel’s democratically elected government. This became painfully obvious in 2012, when the Jerusalem issue was temporarily stripped from the Democratic platform and the party’s pro-Israel faction was left humiliated.

This caught up with the hapless senior senator of New York, Chas. Schumer, in 2012 in an appearance on CBS (see below), where Charlie Rose left Mr. Schumer blubbering evasions about the fact that President Obama opposed the recognition of Jerusalem that Mr. Schumer was claiming the Democrats were for. Now Mr. Obama has been replaced by, in Donald Trump, a president with the courage to enforce the law Congress wrote. How Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have enjoyed the moment.


* Mr. Moynihan apparently discovered the State Department’s phone book anomaly when he was our ambassador in New Delhi. He marked the point in a letter to L. Bruce Laingen, a career diplomat who had once been held hostage by the Iranians at our embassy in Tehran. The letter is contained in an anthology of his letters edited by Steven R. Weisman.

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