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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Congress wanted to move the US embassy to Jerusalem

Yoram Ettinger, Israel's former consul general in Houston, told the Jerusalem Conference today that the US Congress wanted to take away the 'national security' waiver that allows the President of the United States to postpone moving the United States' embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Israeli government then in power said no. Ettinger declined to say which government it was.
“The US Senate was ready to do away with the waiver that allows the president to defer the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem,” Ettinger said during a round-table discussion at the Jerusalem Conference. “There were over 80 senators – enough to override any [presidential] veto.”

It was the Israeli government, Ettinger said, who intervened on behalf of leaving the Embassy in Tel Aviv. “The problem is that both houses of congress have been firmer on Jerusalem than any Israeli government since 1993.”

Ettinger did not elaborate which Israeli government it was that told Congress to stand down.
Ettinger did give one hint of which government it might have been:
After the failed Camp David talks in July 2000, Clinton suggested in an interview with Israeli television that he was considering moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. "I have always wanted to do it. I've always thought it was the right thing to do. But I didn't want to do anything to undermine the peace process ... But it's something that I have taken under review now because of the recent events," Clinton told the Israeli public. In reaction, Hizbullah terror chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah threatened the US that he would "turn your embassy into rubble and return your diplomats in coffins."
The Jerusalem Embassy Act passed in 1995 and the original deadline to move it expired in 1999. I have three candidates for which Israeli government said no to the move.

1. The Barak government that was in power when Camp David fell apart. It would have been very easy for then-President Clinton to make the move because he was a lame duck and would have done anything to keep Barak in power.

2. The Sharon government that was in power at the time of President Bush's June 24, 2002 speech in which he called for a 'new 'Palestinian' leadership that is not tainted by terror.' Relations between Israel and the US have never been better than they were during that period, and there was a very strong sense in the US that the 'Palestinians' were the aggressor in the Oslo terror war.

3. The Sharon government that was in power immediately after the Gaza expulsion in August 2005. The US had a strong interest in giving Israel a quid pro quo for the Gaza expulsion and moving the embassy to Jerusalem would have been consistent with President Bush's hints that he did not expect Israel to give all of the land liberated in 1967 to the 'Palestinians' for their state reichlet.

Of the three possibilities, I would order them 1, 3 and 2.

I have Yoram Ettinger's email address (he's a friend of a friend/client in Houston and we had a cup of coffee together a number of years ago) and I will send him this post and see if I can draw a response.


At 6:22 PM, Blogger J. Lichty said...

That has long been known in pro-Israel circles here in the US. Glad that it has finally come to light, and I believe that it was both Barak and Sharon who have balked at the move.

At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like our Israeli government is run by the board of Hasbro.

At 7:32 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

It was probably during the Barak government. Hasbro can't be expected to be more pro-Jerusalem than the Israeli government.

One wonders why Israel's government would balk at having the US Embassy in Jerusalem, unless it intended to divide Jerusalem all along. Only in that context would its acceptance of the US Embassy being kept in Tel Aviv make any sense.


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