The House of Representatives votes today on a resolution calling on President Bush to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that a Christian Middle East peace group says could jeopardize an ultimate two-state solution to the Palestinian problem with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
The original U.N. plan for Israel in 1947 called for Palestine to be partitioned into an Arab and a Jewish state, with the city of Jerusalem belonging to neither. It never came to pass, because the new state of Israel seized the western portion of the city during the 1948-1949 war, declaring it the capital. Jordan seized the eastern portion, annexing East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1950.
Denied access to Jewish holy sites in the Old City between 1948 and 1967, Israel annexed East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, redrawing municipal boundaries and in 1980 passed legislation declaring Jerusalem, “complete and united” as Israel’s capital.
No country, including the United States, recognizes Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. But in 1995, both houses of Congress passed identical bills stating that U.S. policy should recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and the U.S. embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv by 1999.
The bill provided a presidential waiver, allowing postponement if moving the U.S. embassy was contrary to U.S. national security interests. President Clinton invoked the waiver in 1999.
President George W. Bush promised to move the embassy while running for president in 2000, but he also suspended the move, citing national security, while saying his administration “remains committed” to the process of moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
House Concurrent Resolution 152, passed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs May 23, is scheduled for a floor vote today. It commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War and reunification of Jerusalem, while calling on President Bush to abide by provisions of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.
Israel contends that U.S. refusal to act on the embassy move, making Israel the only country in the world where the U.S. embassy is not in the designated capital city, encourages Palestinian Arabs to believe they may eventually succeed in driving Israel out of Jerusalem.
Churches for Middle East Peace is a coalition of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant church bodies that supports a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict with negotiation toward two viable states–Israel and Palestine–living side-by-side within secure and recognized borders.
The group said Monday the resolution, which with backing from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is expected to pass easily, does nothing to support diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving a lasting peace.
“H Con. Res. 152 has little to do with the present realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Churches for Middle East Peace said in an action alert. “It ignores the complexities of daily life in Jerusalem and fails to recognize the growing consensus that the city must be shared by both Israel and a future Palestinian state. Its statements and recommendations do not take into consideration the sensitive nature of the status of Jerusalem, but rather promote U.S. actions that would pre-judge the city’s future and undermine final status negotiations.”
On Monday Israeli tanks and troops pushed a half-mile deep into Palestinian territory in the Gaza Strip to fight Palestinian militants.
Israel pulled soldiers and settlers out of Gaza in 2005 after a 38-year presence. It sent troops back in after a soldier was captured by Gaza militants last June. That offensive ended with a November truce, broken May 16 when Israeli soldiers resumed strikes in the densely populated area following an increase in rocket fire toward southern Israel.
Two weeks ago Hanna Massad, pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, wrote an e-mail about deteriorating conditions for residents in the Gaza Strip.
Some church members fled to another area in GazaCity where it was safer, Massad said. He said he did not know what was happening around the church building, because it was too dangerous to check.
“It’s in God’s hands,” Massad wrote. “We feel God wants us to remain here at this time. It’s a privilege to be in the midst of God’s will.”
Massad requested prayer for stability in the region, a halt to the killing, safety and protection for individuals and ministry buildings in Gaza.
He also prayed that “God will give me a special word of encouragement and comfort to bring to my people in the church and the community” and “that I will be a shepherd who will be a blessing to His people.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.