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US Embassy in Israel's Capital? Print E-mail

By Jay Bushinsky
January 23, 2009

There are concrete indications that the U.S. is laying the groundwork for the long-delayed construction of an American Embassy in Israel’s capital, but for diplomatic reasons American and Israeli officials refuse to confirm or elaborate.

This massive construction project is going up at one of the city’s most scenic vantage points -- the city's Arnona Quarter which overlooks Bethlehem to the south and the Dead Sea to the East.

For the past five years, work has been under way on a 10-acre site access is strictly barred to sidewalk superintendents or other innocent, but curious observers.   It is under constant surveillance by closed circuit TV cameras and guarded by Israeli security personnel. 

A large sign mounted on the surrounding fence defines the project as the “American Consulate Annex” and identifies the sponsor as the Overseas Building Administration – presumably a branch of the U.S. Government.

A spokesman for Jerusalem’s municipality was a bit more generous with the details than were his counterparts at either of the two existing consular facilities here – one on the pre-1967 Israeli side of the city and the other on former Jordanian side -- or at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

He said that "building number one" which is nearing completion will cover half of the area.  This disclosure left room to assume that the other half will provide space will for the future embassy.  

Although the U.S, maintains cordial relations with Israel and American representatives often refer to this country as a close ally, the U.S. has not recognized Jerusalem as part of the Jewish state's territory or as its capital.  This was the case even when only half of the city was under Israel control (1949-1967).  Not did the U.S. accept Israel’s annexation of the rest of the city after the Six Day War which occurred 41 years ago and in the course of which Israeli forces seized the sector that previously was under Jordanian control.

This policy is based on official American adherence to the landmark UN General Assembly's partition of Palestine which was approved, Nov. 29, 1947.  It designated Jerusalem as a "corpus separatum" which would be governed by the United Nations and divided the rest of the Holy Land between Israel and Jordan.

However, the U.S. congress ignored or implied disapproval of these policies when it passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in October 23rd 1995.  It states that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel and that the U.S. embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem not later than May 31st, 1999.”

Since then, Presidents Clinton and Bush successively have notified the U.S. Congress every six months that their respective administrations "remain committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem," but argued that it would be diplomatically inconvenient or politically volatile to implement the Congressional resolutions.

Israeli architect Amir Mann-Shinhar, who identified himself as the “design Manger and co-coordinator (with the OBO) said the first structure will be completed early next month (February 2009).  He said although it would be only one storey high, permission has been granted for another 3 stories to be added “in the future.”

Neither he nor the embassy and consular officials would disclose the project’s cost. Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm of the consular b ranch situated in the heart of Jerusalem’s Jewish sector said the new facility “will continue to provide visa and American citizen services to all patrons.

This means that hundreds of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem’s former Jordanian sector and their compatriots who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will have to cross virtually the entire Jewish part of the city to obtain American consular services.  The consular branch in so-called East Jerusalem that is situated on Nablus Road in the heart of Jerusalem’s Arab sector will close shortly after the new structure becomes operational. The prospective closure was confirmed by Schweitzer-Bluhm.

Just under four acres of the upcoming diplomatic compound in Arnona now being developed will be comprised of several buildings including schools and kindergartens, the municipal spokesman said and just one of acre will be used for internal roadways and public parks.

The political idea behind all this may be that elements of the Israeli public who are  wary of the so-called two-state solution in which the Palestinians would gain sovereignty alongside Israel might be mollified by instant American recognition of the predominantly Jewish part  of Jerusalem as Israel territory and as Israel’s capital.  On the other hand these mainly right-wing Israelis would have to reconcile themselves of another American embassy in the Arab part of the city which, in turn would be the projected Palestinian state’s capital.

Although the U.S, maintains cordial relations with Israel and American representatives often refer to this country as a close ally, the U.S. did not recognize Jerusalem as part of the Jewish State or as its capital even when only half of the city was under Israel control (1949-1967), not did the U.S, recognize Israel’s annexation of the rest of the city after the Six Day War which occurred 41 years ago.

However, the U.S. congress ignored or implied disapproval of these policies that it passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in October 23rd 1995, it states that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel and that the U.S. embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem not later than May 31st, 1999.”

Nevertheless, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush notified Congress semi-annually that the resolution could not yet be implement.  The evidently deemed it politically counter-productive or a potential cause of violent anti-American demonstrations and mass violence in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was adopted by a vote of 93 to five in the U.S. Senate and 374 to 37 in the House of Representatives, "urge the President to immediately begin the process of relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.  On the other hand, the two Presidents maintained that it was "advisory" in nature and that it "impermissibly interferes with the President's constitutional authority" to formulate foreign policy.

Israeli architect Amir Mann-Shinhar, who identified himself as the “design Manger and co-coordinator (with the OBO) predicted that the first structure will be completed early next month (February 2009) and said that although it would be only one storey high, permission has been granted for another three storey’s to be added “in the future.”

Neither he nor the embassy and consular officials would disclose the project’s cost.

Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm of the consulate situated in the heart of Jerusalem’s Jewish sector said the new facility “will continue to provide visa and American citizen services to all patrons."

This means that hundreds of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem’s former Jordanian sector and their compatriots who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will have to cross virtually the entire Jewish part of the city to obtain American consular services.  She attributed this prospect (which could pose security problems for Israel) to the U.S. intention to close is because the  consulate situated in the heart of Jerusalem’s Arab sector.

Just under four acres of the upcoming diplomatic compound in the Arnona Quarter now being developed will be comprised of several buildings including schools and kindergartens, the municipal spokesman said.   One acre will be used for internal roadways and public parks, he went on.

The political idea behind all this may be that elements of the Israeli public who are  wary of the so-called two-state solution in which the Palestinians would gain sovereignty alongside Israel might be mollified by instant American recognition of the predominantly Jewish part  of Jerusalem as Israel territory and as Israel’s capital.

These right-wing Israelis would have to reconcile themselves to another American embassy in the Arab part of the city which, in turn would be the projected Palestinian state’s capital.

 

 


                                                                    

 

 


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