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Policy on Jerusalem unchanged, Bush says despite signing bill

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush has signed into law a measure strengthening recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but he says United States policy toward the city has not changed.

The Foreign Relations Authorization Act, H.R. 1646, requires Jerusalem to be identified as Israel’s capital in any document funded by the law that lists countries and their capital cities. It also calls for the president to initiate immediately the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In addition, no funds authorized by the measure may be used for a consulate or diplomatic building in Jerusalem without it being under the oversight of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. It also enables American citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their place of birth on passports or birth certificates.

Jerusalem is at the center of the violent disagreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Though Israel’s government is located in Jerusalem, nearly all countries continue to keep their embassies in Tel Aviv. Only Costa Rica and El Salvador have their embassies in Jerusalem, according to CNSNews.com.

In signing the bill Sept. 30, Bush said in a written statement the section on Jerusalem “impermissibly interferes” with his constitutional authority to direct the country’s international relations. Congress would be acting inappropriately if that section were “construed as mandatory rather than advisory,” he said. “U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed.”

The American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee expressed disappointment in Bush’s decision to sign the bill. “Unless these ill-conceived provisions regarding Jerusalem are left un-enforced by President Bush, the damage to American interests and credibility, particularly in the Middle East, will be immeasurable and impossible to reverse,” ADC President Ziad Asali said in a written release.

The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, a leading pro-Israel lobby in Washington, had sought such legislative language on Jerusalem for years, but it has always been blocked by the White House. This year, administration and State Department officials, perhaps distracted by the Iraq crisis, did not lobby the House and Senate leadership to omit the clauses they oppose.

The Jerusalem-related provisions in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act were incorporated from a resolution introduced by Rep. Anthony Weiner, D.-N.Y. Weiner told The Jerusalem Post Oct. 1, “The president is wrong on the substance and he is wrong on the law. It’s going to set up an interesting legal conflict.”

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