The Same Old Empty Promises

They're baaaaack.  Those pandering presidential presumptives are promising to pack up and move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as soon as they get to the Oval Office. 

Don't believe a word of it.

We've heard that before.  It didn't happen then, and it won't happen this time, either. 

The candidates know that, but they think you don't.

It's just another empty campaign promise in a bid for contributions and votes (in that order) from Jews and Evangelical Christians. Just like when Gov. George W. Bush went around in 2000 saying he'd move the Embassy on his first day in the Oval Office.

Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry took the pledge this week.

Here's what the Associated Press reported they told a Washington gathering of Republican Jewish fat cats :

GINGRICH: "So in a Gingrich administration, the opening day, there will be an executive order about two hours after the inaugural address; we will send the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as of that day."

BACHMANN: "My administration will fully recognize Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital, and we will be the first administration … to finally implement a law passed by Congress requiring State to move their department of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem … On the day of my inauguration … I will announce that our embassy will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."

PERRY:  He told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he'd move the Embassy "as soon as I could," but he wasn't specific.

It was déjà vu all over again.

Bush's vow, which he scaled back and eventually ignored, came on the heels of five years of Republicans vilifying President Bill Clinton for failing to move the Embassy, as demanded by the GOP-led Congress, and attacking Vice President Al Gore in 2000 for arguing, as Clinton had, the move should be part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. 
But once Bush got to the Oval and for the next eight years he said the same thing Clinton had: The time isn't right because keeping his campaign promise would upset the Arabs and his goal of creating a Palestinian state.

The current crop of Republican hopefuls took the vow in appearances before the Republican Jewish Coalition, a gathering of some of the GOP's biggest Jewish contributors. Since the GOP goal is to use Israel as a wedge issue and portray itself as more pro-Israel than the Democrats, RJC told Rep. Ron Paul to stay away.

Gingrich was Speaker when the 1995 law was passed in an effort to drive a wedge between Jewish voters and Bill Clinton and the Democrats.  This time they're trying to portray Barack Obama as the anti-Israel candidate.

This game of “who loves Israel more” is one of the few bipartisan traditions left in this deeply divided capital.  The party out of the White House regularly tries to embarrass the one inside with legislation to move the embassy, knowing all along that it’s not going to happen. Republicans tried it in 1980 to embarrass Jimmy Carter in his reelection bid, and four years later Democrats tried to return the favor for Ronald Reagan as he sought a second term.  Despite all the demagoguery the Embassy is still in Tel Aviv and that's where it will remain until the Israelis and the Palestinians make peace.

Here's my advice for Amb. Dan Shapiro and his staff at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv: "Don't start packing."

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.