Author:
Ed Brown

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On January 6, 2015
Last modified:January 7, 2015

Summary:

The Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed in 1995 but it still sits on the desk of the President, unfulfilled. Why do U.S. presidents refuse to support it?

On December 5, 1949 the Israeli Cabinet declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Six weeks later on January 23, 1950, the First Knesset proclaimed that “Jerusalem was, and had always been, the capital of Israel.” Because the status of Jerusalem had been included previously in the UN Partition Plan, most countries did not accept this Israeli position and most embassies have been located elsewhere, including the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.

An often overlooked piece of legislation exists, however, which – if allowed by a U.S. President – would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and allocate funds to move the U.S. embassy there. It’s known as The Jerusalem Embassy Act which was passed in 1995 with overwhelming support in the House and Senate. Former President Bill Clinton refused to sign it when it landed on his desk and after the 10 day rule expired it was enacted. 

The Jerusalem Embassy Act has laid on that same desk of each sitting president ever since. Once every 6 months the White House issues a suspension of limitations waiver to avoid dealing with the measure.

A veto threat was clear while the legislation was working its way through both chambers so Sen. Bob Dole, sensing tension from Clinton, adopted an amendment into the introduced language in the form of a presidential waiver.

Sec. 7. Presidential Waiver.

(a) Waiver Authority.—
(1) Beginning on October 1, 1998, the president may suspend the limitations set forth in section 3(b) for a period of six months if he determines and reports to Congress in advance that such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.
(2) The President may suspend such limitations for an additional six month period at the end of any period during which the suspension is in effect under this subsections if the President determines and reports to Congress in advance of the additional suspension that the additional suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.
(3) A report under paragraph (1) or (2) shall include—
(A) a statement of the interests affected by the limitation that the President seeks to suspend; and
(B) a discussion of the manner in which the limitation affects the interests.
(b) Applicability of Waiver to Availability of Funds.—
If the President exercises the authority set forth in subsection (a) in a fiscal year for the purpose set forth in such section 3(b) except to the extent that the limitation is suspended in such following fiscal year by reason of the exercise of the authority in subsection (a).

The act asserts that every country has a right to designate the capital of its choice, and that Israel has designated Jerusalem. The act notes that “the city of Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s President, Parliament, and Supreme Court, and the site of numerous government ministries and social and cultural institutions.” 

S. 1322 also stated that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999″.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act has been suspended on a semi-annual basis by each sitting President(Clinton, Bush and Obama) over the past 20 years. Each waiver claims to be based on national security concerns as provided for in section 7 of the Act. Congress has complained on many occasions the waiver would only be justified in the case of a genuine security threat.

The issue of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel played into the 2012 presidential election. Obama’s 2012 opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, stated that his administration would recognize Jerusalem as the capital:

“The Obama team refuses to take a stand on whether Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. After initially claiming in 2008 that Jerusalem should remain the capital, President Obama and his advisers have shamefully ducked and dodged on the President’s position. As president, Mitt Romney would ensure Israel has a steadfast ally in the United States, including support for its capital, Jerusalem.” — Ryan Williams, Romney Campaign Spokesman.

Candidate Obama, In 2008: “Jerusalem Will Remain The Capital Of Israel, And It Must Remain Undivided.” (Senator Barack Obama, Remarks At AIPAC, Arlington, VA, 6/4/08)

When a reporter asked Obama White House press secretary Jay Carney to name the capital of Israel – Carney refused to do so.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Repeatedly Refused To Answer Questions On The Administration’s Position On The Capital Of Israel. QUESTION: “What city does this administration consider to be the capital of Israel — Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?” CARNEY: “I haven’t had that question in a while. Our position has not changed, Connie.” QUESTION: “What is the position? What’s the capital?” CARNEY: “You know our position.” QUESTION: “I don’t.” QUESTION: “No, no, she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. That’s why she asked.” CARNEY: “She does know” QUESTION: “I don’t.” QUESTION: “She does not know. She just said she doesn’t know. I don’t know.” (White House Press Briefing, 7/26/12)

When Pressed Later In The Briefing, Carney Again Ducked The Questions On Israel’s Capital. QUESTION: “Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?” CARNEY: “You know the answer. Yes.” QUESTION: “No, I don’t know the answer. We don’t know the answer. Could you just give us an answer? What do you recognize — what does” CARNEY: “Our position hasn’t changed, Lester.” (White House Press Briefing, 7/26/12)

While on a visit to Israel leading up to the 2012 election, Romney was speaking to a crowd of people and indicated Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. The Obama administration made fun of the remark, leading the press to believe Romney simply needed a lesson in geography.

Governor Romney, On July 29: “It Is A Deeply Moving Experience To Be In Jerusalem, The Capital Of Israel.” (Governor Mitt Romney, Remarks, Jerusalem, Israel, 7/29/12)

Interesting fact: while In the Senate Joe Biden Co-Sponsored And Voted For The Jerusalem Embassy Act:

In 1995, Senator Joe Biden Co-Sponsored And Voted For The Jerusalem Embassy Act — Which Declared Jerusalem As The Capital Of Israel. (S. 1322, Vote #496: Passed 93-5, 10/24/95, Biden Voted Yea)

In September of 2002 George W. Bush signed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for fiscal year 2003. That Act included a section worded very much like the Embassy Act which Bush took exception with: section 214:

SEC. 214. UNITED STATES POLICY WITH RESPECT TO JERUSALEM AS THE CAPITAL 
            OF ISRAEL.

    (a) Congressional Statement of Policy.--The Congress maintains its 
commitment to relocating the United States Embassy in Israel to 
Jerusalem and urges the President, pursuant to the Jerusalem Embassy Act 
of 1995 (Public Law 104-45; 109 Stat. 398), to immediately begin the 
process of relocating the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
    (b) Limitation on Use of Funds for Consulate in Jerusalem.--None of 
the funds authorized to be appropriated by this

In his official statement about the 2003 FRAA Bush includes basic reasons why certain sections of the Act were deemed “advisory” and not “mandatory. The word “Israel” doesn’t exist in that document but he did make reference to Jerusalem while explaining why he snubbed section 214:

Section 214, concerning Jerusalem, impermissibly interferes with the President’s constitutional authority to conduct the Nation’s foreign affairs and to supervise the unitary executive branch. Moreover, the purported direction in section 214 would, if construed as mandatory rather than advisory, impermissibly interfere with the President’s constitutional authority to formulate the position of the United States, speak for the Nation in international affairs, and determine the terms on which recognition is given to foreign states. U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed.

A striking difference between Obama’s waiver notifications and those of President Bush is that in Bush’s case, he inserted into the legal jargon a sentence stating, “My Administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.” The phrase appeared in all 16 Bush waiver notifications but neither Clinton’s nor Obama’s waivers have included such a sentiment.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was modified and reintroduced in 2013 as H.R.104The Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act of 2013.

Introduced by Rep Scott Garrett on January 3, 2013 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee – this 21st century version attempted to amend the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 to cut the President’s authority to waive certain funding limitations for Department of State acquisition and maintenance of buildings abroad until the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem officially opened.

It also stated that it is U.S. policy: (1) to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, and (2) that the U.S. Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem not later than January 1, 2015.

On February 25, 2013 the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa for consideration and has never been heard of since.

On December 3, 2014 Barack Obama once again took advantage of the presidential waiver and suspended the Act for another 6 months:

(Public Law 104-45) (the “Act”), I hereby determine that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States, to suspend for a period of 6 months the limitations set forth in sections 3(b) and 7(b) of the Act.

What are our national security interest in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, anyway? Would it somehow make things more volatile than they already are?

Considering the current terrorist ties between the State of Palestine and HAMAS, why would any U.S. president hesitate to side with Israel and sign the Act? We(the people) are, after all, allies and close friends with Israel. It’s also true that Congress has passed laws abolishing cooperation and financial assistance with the HAMAS governed State of Palestine – which also stakes claim to Jerusalem.

In the case of President Obama, he has superseded those congressional objections to doing business with Palestine every year to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars written on his signature alone and has adamantly refused, even in the face of new Hamas terrorist attacks, to suspend that funding to Palestine.

There is no allegiance between Obama and Israel and furthermore I think history will remember his two terms as the darkest period in history between the U.S. and Israel. There are, however, major indicators that Obama is in some sort of political alignment with the Palestinian State, which is unfortunate. It’s also a clear indicator he will never, under any circumstance, sign the Jerusalem Embassy Act.

Many people speculate U.S. presidents want to avoid the ill feeling signing the Act would create in the Arab world, which considers Arab East Jerusalem to be occupied territory and the capital of a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

To shorten that down – U.S. presidents don’t want to anger the Arab world – where many of our elite politicians have financial entanglements. They also don’t want to appear as the cause of increased tensions between the State of Palestine and Israel.

The Saudis have always been against any American move that would show support of Israel’s claim that Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Other Arab nations galvanized by the Arab Spring would also revolt against such a move.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act isn’t the only legislation sidelined by U.S. presidents in the name of this supposed “keep the Arabs happy” proposition – the Keystone Pipeline project has also been snubbed for well over 5 years by President Obama. He claims he’s waiting for environmental clearance but it’s suspected hes intentionally stalled it to prevent economic disruptions for wealthy Arab oil empires which he holds personal alliances with.

A peaceful middle east isn’t happening, regardless of the warmth and fuzziness U.S. presidents claim they strive for. The place is a disaster and it spirals deeper toward all-out genocide on a daily basis. The current policy of not signing the Act obviously hasn’t prevented chaos or brought harmony so why not try the opposite?

It’s up to U.S. voters to vet a future president who will not only promise to allow the Jerusalem Embassy Act to become reality – but follow through.

For citizens who’d like to see this measure happen and Israel earn the recognition of Jerusalem being it’s capital – we should consider the words and deeds of future presidential candidates and closely analyze their history on topics involving Israel to determine if they are sincere or just lying to get elected.