Kohl, J-Street and Jerusalem

When a country sets up an embassy, they tend to be in that nation’s capital city. So why has the American Embassy in Israel been in Tel Aviv instead of Jerusalem? That’s a great question and it’s been a diplomatic headache for decades.

Nearly every President of the United States since Bill Clinton has publicly stated an intention to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; the country’s capital city. Due to repeated violence in the region and pressure from the international diplomatic community, Tel Aviv; the country’s financial center, is called Israel’s “Modern Capital,” while Jerusalem – where the government is located and its democratically-elected representatives meet – is called Israel’s “Traditional Capital.”

It’s a parlor game meant to keep a select few in the world happy while the rest of us are asked to ignore what our eyes keep showing us to be the truth.

Tired of denying reality, Clinton and Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995. It required the relocation of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jeruselam be by 1999. This never happened thanks to internal pressure from the State Department.

So when President Donald Trump announced he’d be following through with a similar pledge made during the 2016 campaign last week, one might expect bipartisan applause for something both Democratic and Republican presidents have long wanted to do. Instead Trump was greeted with a hypocritical hyperbole from many Democrats; including some members of the Senate who had even voted to reaffirm the Jerusalem Embassy Act just six months ago.

Instead of cheers, the move was now called a mistake with many claiming such a move would incite violence within the Palestinian territories and other Mideast countries. Or, as most cynics towards the decades of failed peace process in the region since 1967 look at it – a day ending in “Y.”

One of those doubling-down on this hypocrisy is Dan Kohl, Democratic congressional candidate for Wisconsin’s 6th District. Kohl, who is challenging incumbent Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah), issued a press release stating his belief in the continuation of the failed stalemate between Israel and its neighbors as well as noting the ‘predictable violence’ which will come from President Trump’s announcement.

Ironically, even he admits the truth right away – that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital city.

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and has a very dear place in my heart. It pains me to see how the Administration is using Jerusalem as a political football to score points and undermine decades of bipartisan policy rooted in America’s national security interests and our support for Israel. A cornerstone of our approach has been a two-state solution which remains essential to guaranteeing Israel’s ability to survive as a Jewish and democratic state. Instead of politicizing our national security, we should be working with our allies and Israel to help achieve a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The issue of Israel is personal one for Kohl. In 2009, he was one of the co-founders of J-Street and served on its board since 2013. J-Street has been seen as a controversial outfit, one that claims to pro-Israel, but often takes stances which either undermine the country or advocate for stances which often empower its enemies in the region.

For instance, J-Street was a major backer of the controversial Iran Deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama.

J Street describes itself as the “political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who want Israel to be secure, democratic and the national home of the Jewish people.” The non-profit recently urged US President Donald Trump to denounce a one state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and fervently campaigned against Trump’s appointment of David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel.

“David Friedman is a friend of the settlement movement who backs unlimited settlement expansion, has accused [former] president [Barack] Obama of being an antisemite and says that liberal Zionists are ‘worse than kapos,’” the advocacy group stated.

J Street was also the single largest beneficiary in 2015 of the Ploughshares Fund, a group that seeks to eliminate the world’s nuclear stockpiles, with over $575,000 in grants that funded advocacy for the Iran nuclear deal.

J Street and Ploughshares were part of a loose coalition of groups that coordinated strategy on building support for the Iran deal since late 2013, occasionally consulting with the White House.

Kohl’s connection to J Street was quickly criticized by the Republican Party of Wisconsin when they responded to his press release.

“If Dan Kohl really cared about security in the Middle East he wouldn’t support the disastrous Iran Deal that empowered a rogue regime known for supporting terrorism,” said RPW Communications Director Alec Zimmerman to Media Trackers. “Dan Kohl’s opposition to moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem shows his true colors: Kohl is nothing more than a career Washington insider whose core beliefs are determined by his liberal special interest allies”

As for Kohl’s likely election opponent, Congressman Grothman expressed his agreement with Trump’s decision during a Thursday appearance on “The Jerry Bader Show.” The second-term congressman believed that it was about time the United States acknowledge what everyone already does; that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”

“Today’s decision by President Trump sends a strong message of support for Israel that wavered under the anti-Israeli policies of President Obama,” said Grothman. “Israel should not be the only nation that’s denied placement of embassies in its capital. Israel is America’s strongest, most stable ally in the Middle East, and today’s announcement is an incredibly important step in recognizing its legitimacy.”

While there’s little chance an issue like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will decide next year’s election between Kohl and Grothman, it does offer an insight into each men’s thinking. Grothman is clearly stating what the reality on the ground is in the Middle East while Kohl is double-down on a “Peace Proccess” fantasy where no new talks have occurred in nearly a decade.

Also, it would fair to say at this time that none of the region’s greatest problem has anything to do with who calls Jerusalem home, but instead issues like continued undermining of the region by Iran, the Syrian refugee crisis, and the expected leadership change in Saudi Arabia. Such things as “Land for Peace” are far from being the cure-all Kohl might believe it to be.