U.S. POLICY ON JERUSALEM AND ISSUES FOR ADVOCACY
"We urge the United States government to call upon negotiators to move beyond exclusivist claims and create a Jerusalem that is a sign of peace and a symbol of reconciliation for all humankind." from "Christians Call for a Shared Jerusalem" statement signed by many heads of churches in 1996.
The principal issues for address by peace-seeking advocates from the U.S. churches are: 1. the controversy over the location of the U.S. embassy to Israel; 2. the negotiations and international law; 3. and the need for a "special statute" to deal with the religious dimensions of a Jerusalem agreement.
THE U.S. EMBASSY LOCATION:
The Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress reports that no country other than Israel has recognized Israel's sovereignty over the city, its claim that Jerusalem is its capital or its annexation of eastern Jerusalem following the 1967 war. (Nevertheless, Costa Rica and El Salvador have embassies in Jerusalem.) Congress has voiced the opinion that the U.S. embassy to Israel should be moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. In 1995, Congress overwhelmingly passed The Jerusalem Embassy Act (P.L. 104-45) which states that unless an embassy in Jerusalem is opened by May 1999 the State Department's budget would be cut. President Clinton has used the waiver authority provided in the bill to suspend the mandated move by citing national security reasons. At the time of the summit, legislation that would delete that waiver was being discussed by some members of Congress.
The current and previous administrations have repeatedly resisted congressional
pressure to relocate the embassy on the grounds that the highly symbolic
move would inflame passions and, by supporting Israel's claim to all the
city, stand in the way of a negotiated resolution of its status by Israelis
and Palestinians. However in the aftermath of the July Camp David
summit, at the urging of Prime Minister Barak, President Clinton threatened
to move the U.S. embassy before his term ends.
THE NEGOTIATIONS AND INTERNATIONAL LAW:
It was not until the July Camp David summit that Jerusalem was taken up by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Although Jerusalem proved to be the sticking point, considerable progress was made. Numerous proposals for sharing the city were put on the table that will continue to broaden the on-going debates within Israeli and Palestinian society and in the United States as well.
The long-held U.S. policy was clearly reiterated by Secretary of State James Baker in a "letter of assurances" to Palestinians to encourage their participation in the Madrid peace conference that launched direct negotiations with Israel in 1991. "It remains the firm position of the United States that Jerusalem must never again be a divided city and that its final status should be decided by negotiations. Thus, we do not recognize Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem or the extension of its municipal boundaries, and we encourage all sides to avoid unilateral acts that would exacerbate local tensions or make negotiations more difficult or preempt their final outcome."
The emphasis on negotiating the future of Jerusalem does not, however, negate the applicability of the relevant international law set in United Nations resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention. U.N. Security Council resolution 242 calls for Israel's withdrawal from land occupied in 1967; the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its population into occupied territories.
A "SPECIAL STATUTE"
In a November 1994 statement, the twelve Patriarchs and Heads of Jerusalem churches wrote: "It is necessary to accord Jerusalem a special statute which will allow Jerusalem not be victimized by laws imposed as a result of hostilities or wars but to be an open city which transcends local, regional or world political troubles. This statute, established in common by local political and religious authorities, should also be guaranteed by the international community."
In March 2000, the Holy See and the PLO signed a Basic Agreement with
provisions for a special statute for the governance of Jerusalem with international
guarantees to ensure its implementation. Because of the universal
significance of Jerusalem, the international community ought to be engaged
in the stability and permanency of this statute.
Advocates are encouraged to send not only letters of opinion to their elected officials and candidates, but also to mail them announcements of church or community programs about sharing Jerusalem and articles from your churches' publications about Jerusalem and the Palestinian Christian community. And don't neglect those local barometers of public opinion - talk radio discussions and letters to the editor. With Jerusalem's status on the negotiating table, politicians are keenly alert to indications of shifts in public opinion.
In your advocacy letters:
1. Emphasize that for a negotiated agreement to lead to lasting peace there must be an equitable solution for Jerusalem that respects the human and political rights of Palestinians and Israelis as well as the three religious communities. Call for the sharing of Jerusalem between the two peoples and three religions.
Remind politicians that, despite the current emphasis on bilateral negotiations, the international community maintains an interest in the holy city's future and that international law remains applicable to Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is correctly considered to be illegally occupied.
2. While making the case to your U.S. Representative and Senators and their campaign challengers for the sharing of Jerusalem, it is equally essential to voice disapproval of politicians using the issue of Jerusalem for political gain by calling for the relocation of the embassy before negotiations are completed. Urge President Clinton to refrain from taking unilateral action by moving the U.S. embassy .
3. Ask that the negotiators and U.S. policymakers consult with the leaders of the historic churches in Jerusalem, and include their representatives in discussions about the rights and future of the religious communities. Urge their support for a special statute for Jerusalem with international guarantees to safeguard:
+ Freedom of religion and conscience for all
+ The equality before the law of the three religions, their institutions and followers in the City
+ Freedom of access to and worship in the Holy Places for local Palestinians as well as international pilgrims.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
The Honorable (first name, last name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable (first name, last name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The addresses of congressional campaign headquarters can be obtained locally.
G.W. Bush for President Gore 2000
PO Box 1902 2410 Charlotte Ave.
Austin, TX 78767 Nashville, TN 37203