The White House Should Follow Congress’ Lead on Jerusalem
Recently at a Jerusalem Day celebration on Capitol Hill, nine members of Congress declared to a crowded room that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel. Alan West stated “Jerusalem is the rightful capital of the Jewish people and it should stay that way…unified under one simple flag, that Star of David”. While West is known for ruffling feathers with his bold statements, in this instance his opinion is one that is shared by a broad, bi-partisan consensus Congress. Today, more than ever, a very pro-Israel United States Congress is at odds with the Executive Branch on the issue of Jerusalem.
This sense of Congress, that Jerusalem is and should remain the undivided capital of Israel, has put the legislate body at odds with the United States President since 1995 when a law was passed by Congress to recognize an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem no later than 1999. At the time, then-President Bill Clinton, as a condition for signing the legislation into law, inserted waiver language into the bill essentially building a get-out clause into the legislation. The get-out clause provided a Presidential Waiver that could be signed each six months in order to avoid having to enact the law due to the “national security interests of the United States”.
Despite resistance from consecutive administrations for various reasons, the U.S. Congress remains firmly committed to a policy that recognizes all of Jerusalem as belonging to Israel and the Jewish people. Indeed, support for a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty remains one of the few issues in Congress that has broad bi-partisan support. Today, the current legislative initiative to recognize Jerusalem and move our embassy to its rightful location has 60 co-sponsors, demonstrating a strong will in Congress to see this issue settled once and for all.
Seventeen years have passed since Bill Clinton signed the first Presidential Waiver and U.S. policy on Jerusalem remains murky at best. Our embassy to Israel remains in Tel Aviv and for almost two decades the will of Congress has been ignored by presidential administrations. This year the tension between the administration and Congress has reached a boiling point with President Barack Obama putting ever more daylight between the White House and Jerusalem. Indeed, during a press briefing in March of this year, State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland refused to acknowledge that the city of Jerusalem was located in Israel! Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee immediately reacted to Nuland’s comments in the form of a press release with the headline “Where Does Administration Think Jerusalem is? On Mars?”
During her statements at the Capitol Hill Jerusalem Day event Michele Bachman, a stalwart supporter of Israel who spent time in Israel and speaks Hebrew, described this behavior from Nuland as “shocking”. The Congresswoman mentioned that just a few days prior to the event the President had once again signed the Presidential Waiver, citing “national security reasons”. Bachman reasoned that “for national security reasons we should move the Embassy to Jerusalem” and she is right.
Israel Allies Caucus co-Chairs: Franks (R-AZ), Engel (D-NY), Lamborn (R-CO) and Berkley (D-NV), along with nine members of Congress approached the podium to go on the record stating their support for unequivocally recognizing undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving our Embassy to its rightful location. Each elected official more emphatic and convincing than the next. Christian and Jewish leaders also spoke about the relevance of the city of Jerusalem in our biblical, Judeo-Christian heritage.
The hosts of the Capitol Hill Jerusalem Day event, the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation (IIACF), is an organization that was founded with the intention of bringing people of the Jewish and Christian faiths together to advocate for a strong pro-Israel policy.
The leadership of the IIACF believes that the issue of Jerusalem is an American issue that speaks to the heart of our core values. Israel is a sovereign democracy and a staunch ally; her elected government has the right to determine her own capital city and, as her ally, it is our duty to immediately and unequivocally recognize United Jerusalem and move our Embassy to its rightful location. By refusing to recognize Israel’s sovereign right to determine her capital we are not only undermining the national security of our cherished ally but we are turning our back on the values of self-determination that we hold so dear.
Congressman West said it best when he said that he is waiting for a presidential leader with the “courage and the commitment and the conviction” to finally do the right thing in Jerusalem. Congressman West, Bachman and all of our allies in Congress understand that the future of Jerusalem is central to the future of the Jewish State.