Magazine article The Christian Century

Promises and Principles

Magazine article The Christian Century

Promises and Principles

Article excerpt

Presidential candidates always promise that they will move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The promise is more symbolic than substantive. To move the embassy would disrupt the already wobbly peace process. West jerusalem is the functioning capital of Israel, but the future of jerusalem has to be negotiated. To avoid a premature judgment on the city, no major nation has yet moved its embassy out of Tel Aviv. Candidates Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both said the would move the U.S. embassy, but once in office they quickly recognized the sensitivity of making the move before Israel and the Palestinians reach their own accord.

Unfortunately, presidential candidate and Senate majority leader Robert Dole has done more than promise; he has actually introduced legislation that would require the move. Candidates usually emphasize the embassy issue in New York, especially during the primary there, because of its large number of Jewish voters. But the Kansas senator appears to have New York in hand: he has the governor and the entire Republican congressional delegation on his side, and it is difficult for other candidates even to get a slate of delegates on the ballot without the help of the political leadership. Dole has not been considered one of Israel's strongest supporters, however, so perhaps he feels the need to bolster his standing with the jewish community as he runs for president.

A less charitable view is that he wants the peace process to fail. That harsh assessment would place Dole on the side of the conservative Likud political party, which is strongly favored to replace the more moderate Labor Party in Israel's next general election. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his foreign minister, Simon Peres, are trying desperately to reach an agreement with Syria over the Golan Heights and an accord with the Palestinians that will relinquish partial control of the West Bank and Gaza to Yasir Arafat's Palestinian National Authority. They are racing against Israel's election clock. If Likud replaces Labor, all the peace initiatives which have brought a modicum of hope to the area are in danger of collapsing.

In his book In Defense of Politics, Bernard Crick defines "politics" as "the resolution of social conflict through representation and peaceful agreement." Vanderbilt political scientist Erwin C. Hargrove cites this definition to argue that politics is "a moral task and the politician, so conceived, plays a moral role in society. …

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