September/October 2000

The 'United Jerusalem' Act

By Farley Weiss

(September 6) - If Prime Minister Ehud Barak succeeds in obtaining an agreement on the division of Jerusalem and giving some areas in east Jerusalem to a state of Palestine, then, according to President Clinton, the US will have its US Embassy to Palestine in east Jerusalem.

In a little noticed recent interview with the London based newspaper Al-Hayat on August 11, President Clinton stated, "It is my great hope that by then the Israelis and Palestinians - with our help - will have reached an agreement on Jerusalem that meets their needs. Then I would also be able to inaugurate an American embassy in the capital of a Palestinian state."

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has already proclaimed on numerous occasions that he will make east Jerusalem his capital. Therefore, the location of the US Embassy to Palestine would be in east Jerusalem, while the US Embassy to Israel would be in west Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 passed by a margin of 93-5 in the US Senate and had the overwhelming support of the American people, but apparently not the current Barak government. Until Barak proposed the division of Jerusalem at Camp David, it would have been extraordinarily significant to move the US Embassy even to west Jerusalem, as it would entail US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's united and eternal capital.

Few people realize that the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 gives extensive and full recognition of a united Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Section two of the Act states that

"(1) Each sovereign nation under international law and custom can designate its own capital;
(2) Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the state of Israel;
(3) The city of Jerusalem is the seat of Israel's president, parliament, and Supreme Court, and the cite of numerous government ministries and social and cultural institutions;
(4) The city of Jerusalem is the spiritual center of Judaism, and is also considered a holy city by the members of other religious faiths;
(5) From 1948-1967, Jerusalem was a divided city and Israeli citizens of all faiths as well as Jewish citizens of all states were denied access to holy sites in the area controlled by Jordan;
(6) In 1967, the city of Jerusalem was reunited during the conflict known as the Six Day War;
(7) Since 1967, Jerusalem has been a united city administered by Israel, and persons of all religious faiths have been guaranteed full access to holy sites within the city.

Section three states:

"(1) Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group is protected,
(2) Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel."

East Jerusalem is, in essence, the real Jerusalem, as west Jerusalem was only built over the last 100 years. It houses the Temple Mount, the site that all Jews turn to in prayer when they are in Jerusalem. Its recognition as being part of the capital of Israel would have been the most significant diplomatic achievement for the Jewish people in over 2,000 years.

Shortly after the passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 and at a ceremony honoring its passage in Washington DC, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin stated, "In Israel we all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem, the continuation of its existence as the capital of the State of Israel. There is only one Jerusalem." Unfortunately, Barak, who consistently likens himself to Rabin, has shown he is no great disciple.

Vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman's emphasis on eventually moving the US Embassy to west Jerusalem shows that Barak has destroyed the bipartisan and overwhelming support in the US for a united Jerusalem under Israel's sovereignty.

During the original Camp David talks, president Carter pressured prime minister Begin to compromise on Jerusalem and Begin responded with "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning, if I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my palate, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy."

Begin refused to compromise on Jerusalem and said he would leave the summit if the pressure did not immediately stop, which it did.

Accordingly, the best hope the Jewish people have for the Old City of Jerusalem to remain under Israel's sovereignty is for Yasser Arafat to continue to say no. Barak, Israel's most decorated soldier, has already shown us that he does not have the courage to stand up for the city of our heritage.

The writer is national vice president of the Zionist Organization of America and associate vice president of the National Council of Young Israel.
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