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From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

Rep. Tom Tancredo promotes embassy move

By Leigh E. Rich

Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado’s congressman for the Sixth District, introduced a resolution in the House Tuesday for the immediate relocation of the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—Israel’s capital—noting that the move is a “proposition whose time has come.” “Relocation of the American Embassy to Jerusalem” was co-sponsored with 15 other congressional representatives.

The resolution notes that President George W. Bush, while addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last May, promised he would begin the move as soon as he was inaugurated and, according to Tancredo, is a reminder for the White House.

President Clinton made a similar promise in 1992 and official legislation—the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act—was overwhelmingly passed in both the House and the Senate in 1995. The act set forth a timeline and a clear financial strategy to complete the embassy’s move by May 31, 1999. Clinton invoked a presidential waiver that year to suspend the relocation.

While it remains too early to tell what actions Bush may or may not invoke regarding this issue, Tancredo says, “No one is better able to determine the correct move to make vis-à-vis the relocation of the embassy than Israel itself. They want us to move the embassy there. They perhaps know better than we do what their national security interests are, and therefore I agree with them. It is a logical step to take and it fits in line with every other nation we do business with.”

With the introduction of the latest resolution, Tancredo reaffirms that all US embassies are located in the cities that ally countries deem their capitals. The 1995 relocation act based part of its argument on that fact that the US moved its embassy from Bonn to Berlin when Germany voted to reestablish the city as its capital following reunification.

Although some critics, such as American Muslims for Peace, claim the relocation of the Israeli embassy is playing favorites, Tancredo disagrees. “You can make the same claim on the other side. If Israel is the only nation that does not have its US embassy in its capital, that is playing favorites. You should apply the same standards and same rules for Israel as everybody else.”

Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since 1950, with the city reunified in 1967 following the Six-Day War. It is also the seat of Israel’s parliament and supreme court.

“What I wanted to try to do is get some movement in Congress that will send my own message to the White House,” the congressman states. “This statement, although a symbol, is nonetheless a powerful statement and may in fact move the peace process along.”

He notes that the idea of waiting for a peace agreement before moving the embassy is ineffectual. “That history [of the Clinton administration’s hesitance to move the embassy] teaches us many lessons. Those are the kind of political games we should ignore, and instead we should ask if this is the right thing to do. Is it in our national interests to do this? We also recognize that it does not do damage to the peace process that doesn’t even exist today. What peace process?

“The bottom line is we can do both. This does not rule out the administration’s ability for the mutually desirable peace in the Middle East. There are plenty of things we can do. It’s not ruled out by this action.

“Actually what we should do is take that off of the table. If [that sentiment] stays out there, it could be seized upon by one side or the other as a bargaining chip.”

Instead, Tancredo says a very logical case both morally and legally can be made for the relocation.

At the same time, he recognizes “that we live in a very practical, political world,” particularly when it comes to international relationships with fuel-producing countries—something critics have considered a top priority, and possibly a bias, for Bush. “I don’t want to de-emphasize our relationship with oil producing countries,” the representative says. He also suggests that the US would benefit by improving its own capacity for fuel production in terms of domestic oil supplies, alternative sources of energy and relations with other oil-laden countries not part of the ongoing Middle East conflict.

When asked whether an embassy move would create tension with oil-producing countries in the region, he replies that the US position vis-à-vis Israel will influence certain countries, but that many will express mainly rhetorical claims that cannot be implemented in a practical sense.

Tancredo reports that the resolution and possible move sends a clear message to the world of America’s solidarity with Israel and our country’s support for democracy “in a region dominated by ruthless dictatorships.”

“If we can get those firmly established, that would be enough for me.”

Tancredo is no stranger to the proposition of the embassy relocation. In the 106th Congress, he was a co-sponsor of bill introduced that authorized funds to move the embassy and has signed two letters related to the move.

A Sept. 30, 1999, letter expressed congressional disappointment regarding Clinton’s use of the act’s presidential waiver that says “the President may suspend the limitation set forth in section 3(b) for a period of six months if he determines and reports to Congress in advance that such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.”

On April 23, 2000, another letter reaffirmed that the embassy should be moved in accordance with 1995 act.

With the 107th Congress just under way, Tancredo’s resolution will next move to the International Relations committee—of which he is a member—and then potentially to a vote in the House.

Co-sponsors of the resolution include Reps. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Phil English (R-PA), Jim Ramsted (R-MN), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Cliff Sterns (R-FL), Ray LaHood (R-IL), CL Otter (R-ID), Shelly Berkley (D-NV), Mike Ross (D-AR), Joe Barton (R-TX) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA).

“We can always hold moral high ground to do what’s right,” Tancredo says. “In the long run, it will be beneficial to Bush and the nation to do the right thing.” 

Rich, L. E. (2001, February 16). Rep. Tom Tancredo promotes embassy move. Intermountain Jewish News.

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