Embassies in capital cities

The United States maintains diplomatic relations with 136 nations. In 135 of these countries, our embassy is located in the capital city. This is as it should be. As a routine matter, when a capital is moved, we move our embassy. This practice was followed when Brazil decided to move its capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia and when the government of Saudi Arabia, which until recently declined to have embassies located in its capital, indicated that it would like to have embassies in Riyadh.

In only one case our embassy is not located in the capital city -- despite the expressed desire of the host country that this be done. Although Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, our embassy is located in Tel Aviv.

It is important to keep in mind that moving the US Embassy to West Jerusalem does not affect any of the issues surrounding the peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. West Jerusalem has been an integral part of Israel since 1949, and this has been recognized by all nations with whom Israel maintains diplomatic relations. Two presidents of the US, five secretaries of state, and each US ambassador have done business with the government of Israel at the seat of that government in West Jerusalem. No less a figure than President Sadat of Egypt addressed the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem during his historic visit in 1977.

The analogy with East Germany and the status of Berlin is particularly appropriate. East Germany claims East Berlin as an integral part of its territory. The US, however, does not recognize this claim and maintains that East Berlin and West Berlin have a unique status guaranteed by the four occupying powers. Nevertheless, when the US established diplomatic relations with East Germany, we located our embassy in East Berlin. If we are broadminded enough to enunciate and observe this rational principle for dealing with a communist dictatorship, should we not follow that same rational principle in dealing with a democratic ally?

The special status of Jerusalem as a holy city for many different groups should likewise not be an issue. The Israeli government -- unlike the Jordanian government during its stewardship -- welcomes people of all religions to Jerusalem and allows each group to control its own holy sites. As President Sadat found during his visit to Jerusalem, Muslims are free to pray at Al Aqsa and any other Muslim religious site in Jerusalem. In contrast, during 19 years of Jordanian rule, Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, their holiest of shrines. The area around it was allowed to deterioriate into a slum. Even Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel were not allowed to visit any of their holy places while Jordan controlled East Jerusalem.

The administration has sought to avoid discussing the merits of this question by arguing that Congress is exceeding its constitutional authority in expressing itself on the location of the US Embassy. While it is true that the executive branch is charged with the ''conduct'' of US foreign policy, Congress has a longstanding and universally acknowledged responsibility to share in the formulation of foreign policy. The administration's consistent refusal to follow established diplomatic practice by locating the US Embassy to Israel in a city other than the capital is a matter of policy -- not conduct.

Support for legislation to move the embassy to Jerusalem has been totally bipartisan. The bill of my colleague, Sen. Pat Moynihan, in the Senate enjoys the same bipartisan support.

The time has come for us to recognize the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The time has come for us to take a clear and unequivocal stand on the issue of equal treatment. The time has come for us to abandon the discriminatory double standard we have observed toward Israel and locate our embassy in Israel's capital -- Jerusalem. The peace we all seek in the Middle East can come only if the same principles and standards are applied to all.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Embassies in capital cities
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today