With embassy move, will US finally recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel?
© Getty Images

I was a journalist covering the U.S. Capitol when the Congress passed the U.S. embassy Jerusalem relocation bill in October, 1995, also known as the “Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act

There were expectations at the time that the U.S. would renounce a longstanding position that Jerusalem was not to be recognized as a part of Israel, along with the idea, that all of Jerusalem must be recognized as an international zone.  


However, the final version of the act in 1995 removed explicit references to Jerusalem as a part of Israel and did not mention that Jerusalem would remain an exclusive capital to Israel.


Faisal Husseini, in DC at the time as the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Jerusalem committee, and Yossi Beilin, then Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel, endorsed the act, as it was worded.

The realities of the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act were not lost on American citizens whose children were born in Jerusalem and whose children's U.S. passports said "Jerusalem", with no country listed, as their place of birth.  

For that reason, Jerusalem-Americans initiated a class action lawsuit which reached the U.S. Supreme Court last year, with a demand to stamp Jerusalem on their passports. They lost, because America’s highest court would not challenge U.S. diplomatic policy.

As to the vocal Arab resentment and loud Jewish enthusiasm over the implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, it is doubtful that either side read the wording of the legislation.

Regarding the PLO threat against Jerusalem if the embassy moves, precedent speaks for itself. I remember the threats when Palestinian leaders warned of violence if Jews would move to the new Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa. 19 years later, Har Homa thrives and no fires flicker on that hilly Jerusalem neighborhood.

Meanwhile, U.S. citizens who want their country to recognize Jerusalem as a part of Israel, may wish to advise Congress and White House that legislative change may be in order.

The U.S. adopted an official policy in 1948, in the months that preceded Israel’s War of Independence, which declared that Jerusalem must be defined as an international zone under U.S. trusteeship, and remain extraterritorial to Israel. The State Department went so far as to appoint its own governor for Jerusalem. 

The assassination of the UN envoy to Jerusalem in September, 1948 suspended that process, but did not cancel the U.S. policy.

A case in point: the family of U.S. citizen Ben Blutstein, killed by a terrorist’s bomb in July 2002 while eating lunch at the Frank Sinatra cafeteria at the Hebrew University, could not get the U.S. State Department to allow his U.S. death certificate to read “Jerusalem, Israel.” as the location where he was killed.

The same U.S. policy applies to birth certificates. Four of my children were born in Jerusalem. The birthplace mentioned on their American birth certificates is listed as “Jerusalem,” with no mention of any nation that they were born in.

So, the question remains as to whether the U.S. will ever recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel. Such a policy decision would be seem to be more crucial than the symbolic matter of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

David Bedein is a Philadelphia native who has lived in Israel since 1970. He established the Israel Resource News Agency at the Center for Near East Policy Research Center in 1987, to guide journalists and diplomats in Jerusalem. Bedein’s latest book, Insider the PLO: the Genesis of the Palestinian Authority, will be published on Amazon on February 1, 2017. His web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill