In-Depth: This legislation was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem's reunification. He got the support of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who signed on as an original cosponsor and offered the following statement on its introduction:
“I am proud to sponsor this resolution, which reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 that states Jerusalem should remain an undivided city and Israel’s capital – in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are celebrated, valued and protected. The resolution also affirms our longstanding policy to achieve peaceful coexistence via direct negotiations that achieve a two-state solution.”
This legislation passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee without amendment, and has the support of 16 bipartisan cosponsors including 10 Democrats and six Republicans.
Of Note: The reunification of Jerusalem is celebrated as a national holiday, Jerusalem Day. Following the 1947 UN Partition Plan to divide the British Mandate for Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab country, Jerusalem was to be intended to be a separate body that would’ve been neither Jewish nor Arab. The day after the nation of Israel declared its independence on May 15, 1948 it was attacked by Jordan and an alliance of nearby Arab nations, including Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. Jordanian forces captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City, but the Israelis held West Jerusalem.
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, tensions between Israel and its neighbors never completely relaxed, and in 1967 after Egypt blockaded Israeli access to the Red Sea the Six Day War began. Israel launched attacks on Egypt in response to the blockade, and Egypt encouraged its old allies Jordan and Syria to attack Israel. As a result of Israeli counterattacks, Israel took control of East Jerusalem (including the Old City) and the West Bank from Jordan, in addition to the Sinai peninsula and Gaza strip from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Israel has since withdrawn from the Sinai and Gaza, and parts of the West Bank.
U.S. policy has long held that the future of Jerusalem is to be determined in final stage negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians on a two-state solution. Since the passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, Congress has required that the U.S. locate its embassy in Jerusalem rather than Tel Aviv unless the president uses a national security waiver that lasts for six months. Those waivers have been used continuously since the bill's enactment.
Despite a campaign pledge to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem, President Donald Trump signed the most recent waiver on June 1, 2017 in order to enhance the prospects of a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians being reached. The administration reiterated its desire to relocate the embassy despite the waiver, saying it's a matter of "when" not "if" the embassy is moved.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: Daniel Majewski / Creative Commons)