Newsletter : 5fax0605.txt
| Previous file
| Next file
Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
June 5, 1995, V3, #103
All the News the Big Guys Missed
For subscriptions or back issues, please contact POL management
The Politics of Jerusalem
By Deborah Cooper (Washington)
A legislative proposal that would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel
from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has found little support in the Clinton
administration or in the Labor government of Israeli Prime Minister
Senate Majority Leader and Republican Presidential Candidate Robert
Dole has been accused of playing politics with American Jewish
voters by introducing the legislation. If approved, opponents say
the legislation could have a negative impact on the fragile Middle
East peace process.
According to the 1947 United Nations resolution which would have
partitioned Palestine into two states -- one Arab and the other
Jewish -- Jerusalem would have remained a separate entity under the
sovereignty of neither state. Rather, Jerusalem would become an
international city. Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, however, all
of Jerusalem has been under the control of Israel which maintains
its capital in the western part of the city. East Jerusalem --
whose Old City is holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians -- remains
Dole announced the proposed legislation to move the American
embassy to Jerusalem at a meeting of the American Israeli Public
Affairs Committee, Israel's chief American lobbying group. Alan
Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy says the legislation calls only for moving the embassy to
"It does not say that the United States recognizes Israeli
sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. It simply recognizes the de-
facto situation that the Israeli seat of government is in west
Jerusalem, that the United States regularly sends its
representatives to west Jerusalem to conduct all the normal
business of diplomacy. Our ambassador receives his accreditation in
west Jerusalem. In fact the United States really need not
fundamentally change its policy on east Jerusalem in any way if
this bill passes. And I think that's really the key point."
Makovsky, a former U.S. State Department official, argues that
since the signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993, which established
a framework and timetable for negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinians, the Palestine Liberation Organization has dropped its
claim to west Jerusalem.
"When the PLO talks about Jerusalem almost always it is talking
about east Jerusalem. It says there should be two states -- an
Israeli state with its capital in west Jerusalem and a Palestinian
state with its capital in east Jerusalem. So the argument is no
longer about west Jerusalem. There's only an argument about east
"Dole has a particular history with the Jewish community." Makovsky
said. "I think there was some feeling that he had to improve that
relationship. So there's certainly good reason to suspect there's
a political dimension to it.
"That doesn't mean that there's no substance to it. I think what
makes this thing more possible now than it was two years ago was
the Oslo agreement, ironically from a Palestinian point of view.
But once the Israelis recognized the PLO and once the Israelis
formalized that they were willing to negotiate about Jerusalem and
once the PLO made clear which it basically did explicitly after the
Oslo agreement that it was only talking about east Jerusalem when
it talked Jerusalem, then I think this thing became a substantive
Most members of Congress recognize Jerusalem as the capital of
Israel and want the US Embassy there. But because of the timing
and the possible ramifications to the peace process, the
legislation proposed by Dole may have a difficult time getting full
The Coming Clash Over Jerusalem
Commentary from Intelligence Digest
The architects of the Middle East peace process recognized that
Jerusalem was one of the most difficult of all the barriers to a
permanent settlement between the Arabs and the Jews - so they
postponed talk of the issue until the final settlement negotiations
which are due to begin in 1996.
But sources in the Middle East say that of all the years to chose
for putting Jerusalem on the agenda, 1996 is the least auspicious.
For a start, 1996 will be a particularly sensitive year for both
Israel and the United States as both are due to hold elections.
For the US, the difficulties will be compounded because in or about
July 1996 it will have completed the construction work on the
building that could become the US Embassy in Jerusalem, and
therefore the pressure for a decision will increase.
(The US Ambassador to Israel, Martyn Indyk, warned Congress in
early February that compelling the administration to move the US
Embassy to Jerusalem - as Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich wants -
would destroy the peace process. But postponing the decision until
1996 will achieve little or nothing.)
The Israeli Labor government, of course, seeking re-election, will
be trying its utmost to secure American recognition of Jerusalem as
Israel's capital in order to dispel the public perception that the
peace process is an endless sellout.
The assumption behind the schedule written into the PLO-Israel
accord, which delayed discussions of Jerusalem until 1996, was that
so much progress would have been made in all other areas that
neither side would let the process fail over Jerusalem.
That assumption was always optimistic (and the product of Western
minds that do not properly understand the depth of emotions
involved in the Jerusalem question). It is made doubly so by the
particular difficulties associated with 1996.
Apart from being an election year in the US and Israel, 1996 is
also the year in which Israel will be celebrating the 3,000th
anniversary of the establishment of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
This can only reinforce the already-strong Jewish commitment to the
But, at the same time, the repeated Arab and Palestinian statements
on Jerusalem are not empty rhetoric. The Arabs mean what they say
on this issue above all others.
Faisal Husseini, who is in charge of Jerusalem affairs for the
Palestinian National Authority (PNA), has warned that if the
Palestinians do not get what they want: "Jerusalem will become the
black cloud that could swallow everything. including all hopes for
It will be almost impossible for Israel both to celebrate
Jerusalem's 3,000th anniversary and to make concessions to the
Palestinians, not least because in the religious context (and what
other is there when it comes to Jerusalem?) East Jerusalem is even
more important to the Jews than West Jerusalem. 1996 looks set to
be a fateful year for Jerusalem and the Middle East.
(All material on these web pages is © 2001-2012
by Electronic World Communications, Inc.)