President Trump did Israel a favor when he delayed the US embassy move to Jerusalem.
Current wording of the US Embassy Relocation Act would move the embassy to Jerusalem, yet deprive Israel of sovereignty in Jerusalem.
The U.S. Embassy Relocation Act does not officially recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel. The wording of Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act in 1995, as passed into law, reads as follows:
(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.
As a journalist, I covered events in the US capitol when Congress passed the “US Embassy Jerusalem and Recognition Act” in October 1995
There was speculation at the time that the US would abandon its policy from 1948 that all of Jerusalem must be a “corpus separatum”– an international zone apart from Israel.
Yet the final wording of the US Embassy Jerusalem and Recognition Act removed references to Jerusalem as part of Israel and gave no assurance that Jerusalem would remain the exclusive capital of Israel.
Instead, the US Embassy Relocation Act reinforced two archaic rules of US policy which date from 1948: Not to recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel, and to define Jerusalem as an “international zone”.
The assassination of the UN envoy to Jerusalem in September 1948 suspended negotiations over the status of Jerusalem. However, nothing canceled these US policies.
The implications of the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act are 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, American citizens in Jerusalem initiated a class action lawsuit which reached the U.S. Supreme Court last year, with a demand to stamp Jerusalem, Israel on their passports.
The family of Ben Blutstein, an American student murdered by a terror bomb in July 2002 while having lunch in the Frank Sinatra cafeteria at the Hebrew University, still cannot get the US State Department to allow his US death certificate to read “Jerusalem, Israel.”
Spokespeople of the US State Department made it clear that under current law, even if the US embassy moves to Jerusalem, US birth and death certificates will still be stamped “Jerusalem”, with no country.
If the US embassy moves to Jerusalem under current law, that would establish a “de jure” precedent that the embassy could move – yet with no Israel sovereignty in Jerusalem.
If the US still does not recognize Jerusalem as 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 Temple Mount , the US can repeat the mantra that “Jerusalem does not belong to you.”
Why, then, the vocal Arab resentment and the overwhelming Jewish enthusiasm over the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act?
It is doubtful whether either side has read the wording of the legislation.
The time is opportune to amend the US Embassy Relocation Act, so as to clarify the permanent legal status of Israel in Jerusalem to be in tune with what President Trump said when declaring Jerusalem the official capital of Israel..
The real challenge will be whether the U.S. will do so.
Such a policy change remains much more significant than the move of the U.S. embassy.