Legitimacy Is Not Claimed

06/11/2015 04:27 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2016

In my forthcoming book - "The Good, the Bad and the Far-Out: Poems and Aphorisms, Part 1" - there is an aphorism of April 9, 2010 that states the following: 'Since it contains such beautiful shrines, shouldn't the people whose tradition springs from them have some claim to the running of the city?" (This is a reference to the magnificent Islamic masterworks in Jerusalem, notably the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, surpassing by far any creation in the city by Jews or Christians.)

The full meaning of this came home to me once again with The New York Times lead article on June 9 on the Supreme Court decision the previous day, denying the U.S. Congress' attempt to secure Jerusalem as the sole capital of Israel. By a 6 to 3 vote, (the latter, with two rock-ribbed conservatives Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia - and, more disturbingly, joined by the Chief Justice, John Roberts), the Court ruled that it is the President's prerogative to determine the nation's stance. In this case, an American citizen born in Jerusalem cannot have his country of birth as Israel in his passport. This countermanded a law signed as part of an appropriations bill by President George W. Bush who however said he would not follow the Jerusalem provision which he said interfered with the President's constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs.

One sentence in the opinion of Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, struck me particularly: "Put simply, the nation must have a single policy regarding which governments are legitimate in the eyes of the United States and which are not." Did this sweeping statement imply that Israel is not a legitimate state? In my view, not at all. Put simply, it is a question of whether Israel can unilaterally claim Jerusalem as its sole capital, especially since, as Justice Kennedy wrote, "Indeed it is one of the most delicate issues in current international affairs."

According to the Obama administration's brief in the case, executive branch policy since Harry Truman's presidency "has been to recognize no state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem, leaving the issue to be decided by negotiation between the parties to the Arab-Israeli dispute."

Whether or not the final outcome of Jerusalem will be decided by the irenic formula of "negotiations between the parties," Israel is certainly entitled to part of Jerusalem.

In short, legitimacy is not claimed: it either is or is not.