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Bush committed to moving embassy to Jerusalem, Jewish leaders say

JERUSALEM (BP)–Despite the strong objection of Arab nations, President Bush is looking for a way to fulfill his campaign pledge and move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to a CNSNews.com report quoting American Jewish leaders who met with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington in mid-March.

Powell got himself in hot water in early March when he told a House budget committee hearing Bush was committed to moving “the embassy to the capital of Israel, which is Jerusalem.”

Arab and Gulf states, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Kuwait, which Powell had visited in February, reacted strongly to the Powell’s words, demanding an explanation. The Palestinian Authority, which claims Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital, also protested.

The State Department was left to backpedal, explaining that U.S. policy on the issue of Jerusalem had not changed. The United States has long maintained that the status of the city must be decided between Israel and the Palestinians.

Powell acknowledged Bush’s commitment to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and said the administration was “looking for a way to move it,” said Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations after meeting with Powell.

Hoenlein told CNSNews.com by telephone he was pleased by Powell’s slip of the tongue acknowledging the city as Israel’s capital, even if he had already backtracked on his comments somewhat since then.

Hoenlein said Powell also expressed his understanding for Israel’s position that Palestinian violence must stop before Israel re-enters negotiations with the Palestinians.

He also put the onus on Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to calm the situation and urge the Palestinians — in Arabic — to quit the violence. “He believes Sharon wants to do the right things,” Hoenlein said.

Ariel Sharon, Israel’s new prime minister, is due in Washington for talks with Bush, Powell and other officials Tuesday, March 20, when he is expected to press the administration to pressure Arafat into stopping the violence.

Some Jewish organizations are lobbying in Congress for a much tougher U.S. position regarding the Palestinian Authority.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, told CNSNews.com his organization is asking the administration to place Arafat and his regime on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

ZOA also wants the United States to impose economic sanctions on the PA until Arafat arrests terrorists who move freely in PA-controlled areas and “ends the culture of hatred” in schools and media that “promotes violence and hatred of the Jews.”

Arafat obligated himself in accords signed with Israel to arrest terrorists. From time to time he has done so, but many escaped — in often dubious circumstances — or were given light sentences. At the beginning of the current “uprising,” the PA released all terrorists from PA jails.

PA schoolbooks as well as state-run media have come under fire for what is seen as a rabidly anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias.

ZOA also is lobbying for the State Department to offer rewards for Palestinian terrorists involved in the murder of American citizens.

The U.S. offers millions of dollars in rewards on a special website for those who have killed American citizens and are at large — “with the conspicuous exception of Palestinian Arabs,” Klein told CNSNews.com.

At least 23 Palestinians responsible for the murder of 16 American citizens are “walking free” in PA-controlled areas, he said. Some are actually in the PA police force.

Klein attributed what he sees as an inconsistency in policy to former President Clinton’s desire not to upset peace talks.
Stahl is the CNSNews.com Jerusalem bureau chief. Used by permission

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  • Julie Stahl