Senate unanimously passes bill marking 50 years since Jerusalem reunification
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Senate unanimously passes bill marking 50 years since Jerusalem reunification

With a vote of 90-0, lawmakers of Capitol Hill's upper chamber say 'Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

The Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
The Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

WASHINGTON — The US Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Monday that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

Co-sponsored by 17 senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D), the text calls on the legislative body to recognize the half a century landmark since Israel captured the eastern part of the city during the 1967 Six Day War.

“Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected,” the resolution states, adding that “there has been a continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem for 3 millennia.”

It also says that “Jerusalem is a holy city and the home for people of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths.”

Furthermore, the text advocates a two-state outcome based on direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

The bill’s passage was “applauded” by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and embraced the liberal advocacy group J Street.

J Street’s Vice President of Government Affairs Dylan Williams tweeted that the resolution affirmed “long-held US policy that Jerusalem’s status is to be decided by the parties in 2-state negotiations.”

Senators advanced this measure just after US President Donald Trump formally deferred — at least for now — his campaign pledge to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital.

US President Donald Trump visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)
US President Donald Trump visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)

Last Thursday, he signed a waiver that defers a Congressional mandate to relocate the American embassy. The 1995 law provides the president with the prerogative to postpone the move on national security grounds. Each of Trump’s three immediate predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — repeatedly exercised that right.

In announcing the decision, the White House said Trump was not fulfilling his campaign pledge because he wanted to “maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians,” something he’s been pursuing since assuming office.

The White House further tried to assure that Trump would still move the embassy eventually. “The question is not if that move happens, but only when,” a statement from Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

The US embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 14, 2016. (Flash 90)
The US embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 14, 2016. (Flash90)

The resolution “reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act” — the law mandating the relocation — and explicitly “calls upon the President and all United States officials to abide by its provisions.”

It also supports a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which “can only be achieved,” the text reads, “through direct, bilateral negotiations without preconditions.”

Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader and one of the most prominent Jewish members of Congress, released a statement introducing the measure that implored the US to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

“I am proud to sponsor this resolution, which reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 that states Jerusalem should remain an undivided city and Israel’s capital – in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are celebrated, valued and protected,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, talks with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, talks with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“The resolution also affirms our longstanding policy to achieve peaceful coexistence via direct negotiations that achieve a two-state solution.”

Such language also runs in stark contrast to a UNESCO resolution last month — titled “Occupied Palestine” — that suggested Israel has no sovereign claim to Jerusalem.

The United States scolded that document. “Once again, the United States rejects the adoption of these anti-Israel resolutions at UNESCO,” a US official told The Times of Israel at the time. “Like other parts of the UN system, UNESCO is too often used as a vehicle by member states inclined to deride and delegitimize the State of Israel.”

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