The perennial issue of whether or not to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem surfaced this week during a congressional debate at the Betty and Milton Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, N.J.
U.S. Rep. John Adler (D-N.J.), a freshman lawmaker, is defending his turf against Republican Jon Runyan, a former offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles. Observers have called the race a statistical dead heat.
More than 500 people attended the program, which included a lengthy session in which audience members could ask questions. A man who identified himself as a Lutheran clergyman raised the issue.
Runyan said that he supports moving the embassy.
"Jerusalem is unquestionably their capital city, they deserve the right to be there," said Runyan. "I don't think the United States government should be telling them what they can and cannot do in their capital city."
Adler, who converted to Judaism more than two decades ago and has visited Israel twice, offered a more nuanced reply. Stating that much of Israel's government is centered in Tel Aviv, he cautioned that moving the embassy "could have extraordinarily bad consequences."
He also said it could cause "Israelis to die."
The next day, Adler clarified his remarks through a campaign spokeswoman.
According to a spokeswoman's statement, "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Because the process of moving the diplomatic representation of our country and other countries to Jerusalem will almost certainly risk retaliation from Israel's enemies, careful coordination between our two nations is essential."
In 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which called for relocating the diplomatic outpost, though three successive presidents have not implemented the measure.
The Israeli-Palestinian talks and the Iranian nuclear threat received more play at the Adler-Runyan debate than at several debates held on the other side of the Delaware, though the economy, jobs, health care and education were also major themes.
A New Development
The race appears to be a study in contradictions and contrasts. It's pitting a Harvard law-school graduate and longtime state senator against a man not long retired from the gridiron.
Adler has opposed some of his own party's major policies: For example, he voted against the health care law. Runyan is pro-choice in a party with increasingly little room for moderate stances on social issues.
But the race really generated headlines last week when the Courier Post reported that Adler's campaign had recruited a Tea Party member, Peter DeStefano, to run as a third-party candidate in order to siphon off some votes from Runyan.
At the debate, Adler denied that his campaign had any involvement in such a development.