TODAY the United States embassy, and the embassies of all other major world countries, are located in Tel Aviv, not in Jerusalem. Three small central American countries have built embassies in Jerusalem. No one else has done so. But most countries maintain consulates in Jerusalem.
Last week, Sen. Bob Dole (R) of Kansas and House Speaker Newt Gingrich introduced legislation in Congress calling for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. This is a flagrant play for pro-Zionist votes and campaign contributions. It would, if carried out, severely damage what prospects are left for a peace settlement and further cloud the legal ownership of Jerusalem.
There is an excellent reason most countries keep their embassies in Tel Aviv but their consulates in Jerusalem.
Under international law the city of Jerusalem belongs not to Israel but to the United Nations. The legal title is in the possession of the Security Council, which has long intended that Jerusalem be made an international city under international control. Technically, Jerusalem was to be a corpus separatum, never part of either Israel or of any Arab state.
To get this in context, remember that all of Palestine before World War I belonged to the Ottoman Empire. Its sovereignty was in the sultan in Constantinople.
At the end of the war, sovereignty was taken over by the League of Nations, which set up a British trusteeship for Palestine. The British ran Palestine until the end of World War II. At that time, trouble between Arabs and Jews became so violent that the British handed over their sovereignty to the United Nations. The UN then drew up and approved a plan for the partition of mandated Palestine. The Jews were to get most of the coastal plain and the province of Galilee. The Arabs were to have the hill lands between the coastal plain and the Jordan River. As for the city of Jerusalem, it was to be a separate entity under permanent UN jurisdiction.
Title to the city of Jerusalem has never been passed or ceded to Israel. Technically, the Israelis are squatters in Jerusalem. They have no legal right to be there and certainly no legal right to be confiscating Arab land for building housing for Jews.
The consulates are in Jerusalem because Jerusalem, as far as most of the world is concerned, is a separate legal entity. The consuls there are accredited to the city of Jerusalem, not to the state of Israel. For the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem would be equal to accepting the Jewish claim to sovereignty over the city. This would mean selling out the rights of others to their fair share in Jerusalem under the original UN partition plan.
The peace talks are based on the assumption that the UN partition plan is still the legal basis for territorial ownership. By general consensus, Israel is entitled to West Jerusalem, which is a predominantly Jewish community. But East Jerusalem to this day is predominantly Arab, and the Arabs fully expect and intend to have it back.
As for the inner city of Jerusalem, everyone, except the Israelis, agrees that it should be what the UN intended, a separate entity to be governed under the aegis of the United Nations -- and never become the exclusive property of any one nation or of any one religion.
Jerusalem is, after all, the spiritual center of three great religions and is as important to any one as to the others.
Peace can be built on the basis of the UN partition plan. It can never be built on any other basis. Senator Dole and Speaker Gingrich are being dangerously irresponsible in their proposal to move the US embassy, because to do so would be to abandon all rights except Jewish ones in Jerusalem.