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The United Nations and Israel

US legislation seeks to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital

by Janine Zacharia - September 30, 2002

WASHINGTON   A bill approved by the House and Senate last week, and now headed for President George W. Bush for his signature, obligates the US to identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in federally funded documents.
It also lists a menu of proposed sanctions against the Palestinian Authority.

Tucked into an $8.6 billion bill authorizing State Department programs for next year, are provisions on the status of Jerusalem including a clause that says a US citizen born in Jerusalem could choose to have Israel listed on their passport as their country of birth. There is also a clause calling on the president once again to immediately begin the process of relocating the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The US refuses to identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, fearing it would prejudge final status negotiations with the Palestinians, who also want part of Jerusalem for a future capital of a Palestinian state.

The bill also says that the US Consulate in Jerusalem, which currently answers directly back to the State Department in Washington, will come under direct supervision of the US ambassador in Tel Aviv.

The Jerusalem-related provisions were the initiative of Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-New York), who had originally introduced a resolution entitled the Israeli Capital Recognition Act.

Folded into the Foreign Relations Authorization Act are also sanctions that would be imposed on the PLO and the PA if the president determines that they have not complied with their peace commitments with Israel.

The president would be required to report to Congress on the Palestinians' adherence to their commitments. Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-New York) originally proposed the sanctions in the Middle East Peace Commitments Act.

Proposed sanctions include denial of visas to PLO and PA officials, downgrading the status of the PLO office in the US, and designation of the PLO or its offshoots as terrorist organizations. The president can avoid imposing sanctions by invoking a national security waiver.

Normally, such provisions would have been staunchly opposed by the State Department. But the bill includes $244 million in back dues owed to the UN.

With the US seeking a UN resolution on Iraq, officials did not want to be truant with the payment again.
"Our bill takes a huge step toward normalizing relations with the United Nations," Tom Lantos (D-California), the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, said last week.

The bill also includes, in a section on security assistance for Israel, a provision for appropriating $100m. for establishing an agreed-to joint US-Israeli production line for the Arrow missile in the US.

Arab American organizations urged President Bush not to sign the bill. George Salem, chairman of the board of the Arab American Institute wrote to Bush: "At a time when you are building a coalition to support our goals in the Middle East, Congress should not be undermining your efforts."

Khalil Jahshan, director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, called on Bush to veto the bill to maintain long-standing American policy that the status of Jerusalem should be an issue for Arabs and Israelis to resolve through direct peace negotiations.

The groups also protested a section of the bill that would withhold $10m. in the $35m. in assistance to Lebanon until it asserts its authority over southern Lebanon.

©2002 - Jerusalem Post

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