November 07, 2009

Jerusalem mayor finds support for united city in Congress

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat

Barkat warmly received in Washington, with Congress members presenting to him legislation proposal to have US embassy moved from Tel Aviv to capital without need for president's consent

Yitzhak Benhorin
11.07.09, 08:42 / Israel News

WASHINGTON - Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat met with Democratic and Republican Congress members in Washington on Friday, and was pleased to find wall-to-wall support of the need to keep Jerusalem united.

The mayor, who is on a two-week visit to the United States and Canada, arrived at Congress accompanied by Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren. Barkat was received warmly, and learned that it is seemingly easier to run Jerusalem from the US capital than from the Israeli one.

One example of the support Barkat found for his position on Jerusalem can be found in the Senate, where a group of seven senators are working on legislation that will support maintaining a united Jerusalem.

The proposal will also include a decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, by circumventing the US president's authority to hinder the decision. Barkat discussed the matter with two of the senators behind the proposal, Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl.

In the mid 1990s, Congress passed the "Jerusalem Embassy Act" stating that "Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem".

The act was adopted by the Senate and the House, but former US President Bill Clinton used his authority to suspend the relocation, citing national security concerns.

Former President George Bush, who vowed to relocate the embassy during his 2000 elections campaign, failed to keep his word upon entry to the White House, after his advisors outlined to him the dangers such a move could pose in the Middle East and on US embassies around the Arab and Muslim world.

The US House of Representatives presents an even more extreme version, which is being backed by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, along with her colleague Dan Burton.

The two presented the Jerusalem mayor with a copy of their initiative for legislation on American support of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.

It is unlikely that the document, in its current form, will receive the support of the Democratic majority, since it calls for significant financial penalties against the State Department until it relocates the embassy.

Barkat was cordially received by 15 members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He briefed them on his plans to open Jerusalem up to the world and enable economic development for all the city's sectors, using a business management approach.

When asked about the demolition of houses in east Jerusalem, the mayor spoke of the difficult task of running a city with the eyes of three billion people from around the world watching it.

The mayor explained that all actions were carried out according to Israeli law, and added that the scope of the demolition of houses in the east of the city was similar to that of the west.

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