We all know about the shocking, Democratic waffling on the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s (undivided) capital in the current party platform. But there’s another important issue that no one seems to be talking about: If Jerusalem is really Israel’s capital, why haven’t we moved our embassy there?
To be sure, this is not the first time that Jerusalem has been at the center of controversy. Twenty-five hundred years ago, when the returning Jewish exiles were attempting to rebuild the city, their opponents sent a letter of warning to the king of Persia. (At that time, Judah was a province of Persia). “Be it known to the king,” the letter stated, “that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired.” (Ezra 4:12-13)
They even urged the king “that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste.” (Ezra 4:15)
How interesting that more than two-and-a-half millennia ago, Jerusalem had a bad reputation (at least to its enemies). It was already branded “rebellious and wicked,” a hotbed of sedition, and a bane to rulers and nations.
The warning even went one step further: “We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River” (Ezra 4:16) In other words, once the Jews rebuild Jerusalem, you will lose the entire province of Judah in Trans Euphrates.
Five hundred years later, Jesus himself referred to Jerusalem as “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” (Matthew 23:37) And the ancient prophet Zechariah predicted that at the end of the age, “all the nations of the earth will gather against it.” (Zechariah 12:3)
But as fascinating as these texts are, given the current controversy about the status of Jerusalem, they do not answer the question I have raised: From a political perspective (as opposed to a biblical perspective), why haven’t we moved our embassy to Jerusalem? If we truly recognize it as the undivided capital of Israel, as affirmed now in both party platforms, why haven’t we relocated our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.