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David Bedein: Time to Reconsider Misleading Terms Used in Middle East Coverage

by David Bedein, posted here October 8, 2017 but written in Aug 2017

As a journalist, I covered events in the US capitol when Congress passed the US embassy Jerusalem relocation bill in October 1995, also known as the “Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act”. There were expectations at the time that this would mean hat the US would renounce its position, adopted in 1948, that Jerusalem was not to be recognized as a part of Israel.  There was also speculation, at the time,  the US would abandon its position, dating from 1948, all of Jerusalem, must be an international zone.

However, the final version of the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act removed explicit references to Jerusalem as “part of Israel” and purposely did not mention that Jerusalem would remain the exclusive capital of Israel.

The late  Faisal Husseini , at the time as the head of the PLO Jerusalem committee, was present in Washington  , as was Yossi Beilin, then deputy foreign minister of Israel – Both of them endorsed the new wording of Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act in 1995, as it was passed into law, which enacted only stated:

(1) Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the
rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected;

(2) Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of Israel;  (and under the principle of Coprus Separatum, it may be a capital but that does not apply to any aspect of Sovereignity in Jerusalem.).

In other words, the US embassy relocation act did not violate two US premises from 1948; that Jerusalem was not to be recognized as a part of Israel, and that Jerusalem should  be extraterritorial to Israel. The US 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 US policy.

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

The US  policy applies to passports and birth certificates of American citizens in Jerusalem.

As to vocal Arab resentment and loud Jewish enthusiasm over the possible implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act under President Donald Trump, it is doubtful if either side has read the wording of the legislation.


If the US embassy does move to Jerusalem under current constraints of US law,  the facts on the ground will be establish “de jure” precedent  that the US embassy moved to Jerusalem without recognition of  Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.  If the US still does not recognize Jerusalem as a part of Israel, the next time Israel objects to an Arab education curriculum in Jerusalem, and the next time Israel objects to a given policy at the Western Wall or the Temple Mount, the US can repeat the mantra that  “Jerusalem does not belong to you”.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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