The Jerusalem Embassy Act and other pro-Israel political games

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Is this news, or just restating the obvious?

This week President Obama invoked waive provisions of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, which requires the State Department to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

U.S. policy has always been that the status of Jerusalem is a matter for negotiations with the Palestinians, and that moving the embassy before that would compromise this country’s ability to serve as an effective peace mediator.

Israeli governments have tacitly agreed, which is why none – Labor, Likud or Kadima – has pushed for the embassy move.

When President Bill Clinton invoked the waiver, Republicans complained mightily and most Democrats kept quiet. When President George W. Bush waived the law, most  Republicans were struck dumb and Democrats said it showed he wasn’t as pro-Israel as he was cracked up to be.  When Obama invoked his first waiver – it has to be done every six months, providing more than ample opportunities for political pot shots – the Republicans suddenly rediscovered the issue and the Democrats rediscovered the value of silence.

This is not an isolated issue.

Israel’s friends in Congress are constantly generating resolutions, dear colleague letters and legislation like the Jerusalem Embassy Act that seem to have only the most tenuous links to what’s actually happening in U.S. foreign policy.

The most recent example: a letter authored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Ca.) supporting Israel’s U.S. aid, and hinting that it’s somehow in jeopardy – despite the fact nobody in Congress or the Obama administration has even hinted about aid cuts.

These things are taken seriously to the point of obsession by some lawmakers and some pro-Israel groups. I’m wondering if the rest of the world sees them as serious policy making and legislating – or as the partisan posturing and posing they seem to be.

The Jerusalem embassy silliness is just the most visible example.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.