(The Blaze/AP) -- In remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition, GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann made nearly identical promises to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem if they are elected.
The two candidates were appealing Wednesday to a crowd that wanted to hear pledges of unwavering U.S. support for Israel, and in a climate where evangelical primary voters - among the strongest supporters of Israel - hold unusual sway. But the promises Gingrich and Bachmann made have a long history of not being kept.
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."
THE FACTS: A promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has become a standard part of pro-Israel political rhetoric. Similar pledges were made during their campaigns by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But no administration has ever acted on such a promise once in office.
President Barack Obama, as Clinton and Bush before him, maintains that Jerusalem's status is a matter for negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians. Although candidate Obama never directly promised to move the embassy, it was a tricky subject: Obama drew criticism for saying that Jerusalem would remain the capital of Israel and would remain undivided.
If the United States were to move its embassy in the absence of a peace deal, the act would be a symbolically explosive step. It would be seen as a prejudgment of those negotiations and spark anger throughout the Arab world. It also would destroy any appearance that the U.S. can be a credible and neutral mediator in peace talks.
A 1995 U.S. law recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the U.S. embassy to move to Jerusalem from a neutral site in nearby Tel Aviv. Using their presidential power, Clinton, Bush and Obama have routinely suspended the relocation of the embassy while saying the U.S. is still committed to doing it.
The U.S. already has a robust consulate in west Jerusalem that functions as a mini-embassy. It is that office that handles dealings with the Palestinians and handles visas and other business for Israelis.
Jerusalem is an ancient city with historic religious sites sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews. Its modern history is tortured: The United Nations proposed international jurisdiction for Jerusalem when it wrote the mandate for a Jewish state in 1947, but the plan fell apart the next year when the 1948 war divided the city between Israeli and Jordanian control. Israel captured the Old City in the 1967 war, reuniting the city under its disputed jurisdiction.
Israel claims all of the city as its capital and maintains the seat of government there. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
The AP article might make a good point regarding the diplomatic implications of such an embassy move, however it does not include additional historical context regarding Jerusalem.
We should point out that claims of Jerusalem being one of Islam's "holiest sites" did not surface before the 1930's. Some historians credit the late Grand Mufti Haj Amin al Husseini with creating this narrative. The objective, of course, was a logistical move intended to drive the Jews from, and weaken their historic claim to Judaism's most holy of sites -- and further, to justify Muslim claim to the land.
It is perhaps also worth noting that Judaic artifacts, which date to the First Jewish Temple period — the eighth to sixth centuries B.C. -- were found during archeological excavations:
"This is the first time we have shards from the Temple Mount with a [uniform] date," Haifa University's Reich told National Geographic News.
The find "most certainly" indicates the presence of people in the temple during the late eighth century and seventh century B.C., he said.
"From an archaeological standpoint, this is the first time this has happened," Reich said.
"You can say that this was written in the Bible—but the Bible is a text and texts can be played around with. This is physical evidence."
In addition, artifacts of the Second Temple have also been found in Jerusalem:
A sword in a scabbard that belonged to a Roman soldier and an engraving of the Temple's menorah on a stone object were discovered in recent days during excavation work in the 2,000-year-old drainage channel discovered between the City of David and the Jerusalem Archeological Garden near the Western Wall. [...]
The channel served as a hiding place for residents of Jerusalem from the Romans during the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.
The Temple Mount is of course now covered by Islam's Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque. Many believe the mosque and shrine's unique location are intended to prevent Israel-lead archaeological excavations from taking place, while also serving as a cover for Muslim-lead excavations conducted directly beneath -- excavations whose said purpose is to unearth and dispose ofJudaic artifacts that would prove Judaism's long-standing historic, religious, and cultural link to Jerusalem.