From Jewish World Review July 22, 2009, by Jeff Jacoby:
...There was a time not so long ago when Jerusalem was anything but an open city. During Israel's War of Independence in 1948, the Jordanian Arab Legion invaded eastern Jerusalem, occupied the Old City, and expelled all its Jews — many from families that had lived in the city for centuries. "As they left," the acclaimed historian Sir Martin Gilbert later wrote in his 1998 book, Jerusalem in the Twentieth Century, "they could see columns of smoke rising from the quarter behind them. The Hadassah welfare station had been set on fire and … the looting and burning of Jewish property was in full swing."
For the next 19 years, eastern Jerusalem was barred to Jews, brutally divided from the western part of the city with barbed-wire and military fortifications. Dozens of Jewish holy places, including synagogues hundreds of years old, were desecrated or destroyed. Gravestones from the ancient Mount of Olives cemetery were uprooted by the Jordanian army and used to pave latrines. Jerusalem's most sacred Jewish shrine, the Western Wall, became a slum. It wasn't until 1967, after Jordan was routed in the Six-Day War, that Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli sovereignty and religious freedom restored to all. Israelis have vowed ever since that Jerusalem would never again be divided.
And not only Israelis. US policy, laid out in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, recognizes Jerusalem as "a united city administered by Israel" and formally declares that "Jerusalem must remain an undivided city." US presidents, Republican and Democratic alike, have agreed. In former President Clinton's words, "Jerusalem should be an open and undivided city, with assured freedom of access and worship for all."
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama said much the same thing. To a 2008 candidate questionnaire that asked about "the likely final status Jerusalem," Obama replied: "The United States cannot dictate the terms of a final status agreement… . Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital, and no one should want or expect it to be re-divided." In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Council, he repeated the point: "Let me be clear … Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
Palestinian irredentists claim that eastern Jerusalem is historically Arab territory and should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. In reality, Jews always lived in eastern Jerusalem — it is the location of the Old City and its famous Jewish Quarter, after all, not to mention Hebrew University, which was founded in 1918. The apartment complex that Obama opposes is going up in what was once Shimon Hatzadik, a Jewish neighborhood established in 1891.
Only from 1948 to 1967 — during the Jordanian occupation — was the eastern part of Israel's capital "Arab territory." Palestinians have no more claim to sovereignty there than Russia does in formerly occupied eastern Berlin.
The great obstacle to Middle East peace is not that Jews insist on living among Arabs. It is that Arabs insist that Jews not live among them. If Obama doesn't yet grasp that, he has a lot to learn.