Steve Kramer
Steve Kramer

Undivided Jerusalem Must Remain So

Israel and the United States are at odds over the Israeli capital of Jerusalem. You may not remember that Congress passed – by more that a 10:1 margin – the ‘Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’ which explicitly states: 

The Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital.

(2) Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capitalof the State of Israel.

(3) 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.

(4) The city of Jerusalem is the spiritual center of Judaism, and is also considered a holy city by the members of other religious faiths.

(5) From 1948–1967, Jerusalem was a divided city and Israeli citizens of all faiths as well as Jewish citizens of all states were denied access to holy sites in the area controlled by Jordan.

(6) In 1967, the city of Jerusalem was reunited during the conflict known as the Six Day War.

(7) Since 1967, Jerusalem has been a united city administered by Israel, and persons of all religious faiths have been guaranteed full access to holy sites within the city.

… (17) In 1996, the State of Israel will celebrate the 3,000th anniversary of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem since King David’s entry….

SEC. 3. TIMETABLE.

(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 the State of Israel; and

(3) the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999. 

Congress made its intentions perfectly clear that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel and the Jews, and that America should move its embassy there forthwith, no later than 1999. In fact, Presidents Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama all ignored the law and found an excuse to delay it. Finally, in the year 2000, President Trump fulfilled the law’s obligations and moved the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The American Consulate was established in Jerusalem in 1844 to meet the diplomatic needs of the Jews in Palestine. Following the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the consulate took on a life of its own and became the unofficial US mission to the Palestinians. The consulate was closed when the American embassy moved to Jerusalem. In 2021 Joe Biden assumed the presidency and declared that the consulate should be reopened in the same location in Jerusalem as before, to again serve Palestinian Arabs. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Ya’ir Lapid both vehemently reject this proposal, which goes against the Jewish ethos dating back to the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion [Jerusalem].” (Psalms 137:1-3)

I strongly argue against President Biden’s oft-repeated campaign promise regarding the consulate, reaffirmed several times since then by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Why?  Because Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel – and the Jews – and a foreign consulate in our capital undermines Jerusalem’s rock-solid legitimacy. You cannot remove Jerusalem from the hearts of the Jewish nation and people. Not after 3,000 years of Jewish devotion to it and 2,000 years since the Romans nearly destroyed the Jewish people and dispersed the vast majority outside Israel. 

Following are quotes from a definitive article in the Jerusalem Post by Herb Keinon on November 11. These quotes make the case for Israel denying the president’s request.

Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman: “Dividing Jerusalem is exactly the message the reopening of the consulate would send. It would be saying that there are people out there, the Palestinians, who hope to have a state one day, and when they do, they’re going to have a capital in Jerusalem, just like Israel does. This is much more than just symbolic. This sends an absolute crystal clear message that the United States favors a division of Jerusalem into an Israeli capital and a Palestinian capital. It’s undeniable, and that’s the way [Palestinian Authority Prime Minister] Mohammad Shtayyeh has already said he interprets it.” [He said: “We want the American Consulate to constitute the seed of a US Embassy in the State of Palestine.”]

Prime Minister Bennett: “There is no room for an American consulate in Jerusalem that serves the Palestinian population. We are consistently expressing our opinion, without drama, and I hope that it will be understood. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel alone.”

Foreign Minister Lapid: “We are opposed to opening a consulate in Jerusalem. There is an [American] embassy in Jerusalem. The sovereignty in Jerusalem belongs to one country – Israel…. There is an American Embassy, and if – by the way – they want to open a consulate in Ramallah, we have no problem with that.”

American Secretary of State Blinken: “We’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening… ties with the Palestinians.” [In this case, deepening ties with the Palestinian Arabs would be detrimental to the State of Israel. The logical place for a consulate in the PA capital, Ramallah.]

Another former US ambassador, Dan Kurtzer (2001- 2005): “If the United States, Israel’s best and in most cases only friend, wants this thing, and the Israelis are making a cabinet crisis over this… come on!” Kurtzer said, adding that in his view Israel’s opposition is “inexplicable.” “I think the American government is going to expect that if the United States wants to open up a consulate in Jerusalem that Israel will grant it privileges and immunities. I think that’s an expectation from an ally and a partner and a friend.” [Nothing “inexplicable” about it. A consulate in Ramallah is an upgrade in relations for the PA which doesn’t wound Israel’s soul –  Jerusalem.]

Kurtzer rebuffed the argument against opening a consulate for the Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem, that argument being the reality that the US doesn’t have another consulate in the world in the same city where it has an embassy, nor does it have any consulates anywhere but in sovereign states, nor does it have consulates to serve a people as distinct from a country.

(https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/us-israel-play-chicken-over-jerusalem-consulate-for-palestinians-684768)

As a matter of fact, per the Vienna Convention of 1963, a country must give its permission for another country to open its consulate or embassy there. I passionately disagree with Ambassador Kurtzer and the Biden Administration. A PA consulate could be placed in Ramallah, which is located very close to Jerusalem (you can see it easily from Jerusalem’s northern hills). To effectively divide Jerusalem, like it was illegally divided from 1948-1967, not only subverts the 1995 Jerusalem capital bill, but would denigrate Israel’s status at a time when the Abraham Accords is fostering peaceful relations with many Arab states (and still counting). Simultaneously it would strengthen the Palestinian Arabs, who wish to usurp Israel and can’t even make peace with their brethren in Gaza.

For an American president to fail to fulfill a campaign promise is the rule more than the exception. President Biden could easily “kick the can down the road,” eliminating an awkward disagreement with Israel, a country who’s very existence is synonymous with Jerusalem. Let’s hope Israel’s leaders maintain their unequivocal opposition to reopening a consulate for the PA in Jerusalem and that the Biden Administration agrees to drop its demand.

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.
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