- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Destination Jerusalem

A new Senate resolution would require the United States to relocate its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before recognizing a Palestinian state and would leave President Bush no option to suspend the move.

The measure also prohibits the United States from recognizing Palestine “until the international community” declares Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel.

Palestinians have demanded the city also serve as a capital of their new state, and all Middle East peace efforts have left the status of Jerusalem for final negotiations, after national boundaries, Jewish settlements, national security and other matters are resolved.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and the chief sponsor of the resolution, says that approach has only bogged down negotiations.

“The Middle East peace process is in need of a major paradigm shift,” he said in a statement. “We can’t continue to bog ourselves down in the mechanics of the process.”

He said his resolution “has the potential to catapult the Middle East peace process forward.” The resolution would become law if adopted by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.

Mr. Brownback, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia and Pacific affairs subcommittee, said the resolution requires the United States to move the embassy to Jerusalem three months before recognizing a Palestinian state.

“For the past decade, we have attempted to forge a peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis based on the model of ‘land for peace.’ That model has failed,” he said.

“We should make a new attempt, addressing two major issues at the outset. By tackling the tough issues first, we can chart a new path and help create a powerful momentum for peace on all sides.”

The resolution differs from the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which allowed the president to impose six-month waivers of the requirement to relocate the embassy to protect U.S. national security interests. President Clinton repeatedly suspended the act, and Mr. Bush has also signed the waiver despite a campaign pledge to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

Mr. Brownback also said Israel has a right to select its capital. His measure recognizes Israel’s biblical claims to Jerusalem, noting that the city, under its Hebrew name, Iruslm, is cited 766 times in the Tanach, the Hebrew bible, and never in the Koran.

Muslims consider Jerusalem their third-holiest city after Mecca and Medina because of the Prophet Muhammad’s “night journey.” Islamic tradition says Muhammad, led by the Angel Gabriel, traveled in A.D. 620 from Mecca to the “farthest mosque” and was raised to heaven for a meeting with God. Islamic scholars identify that site as Jerusalem and revere the Al Aqsa Mosque as the place of Muhammad’s ascension. He returned the same night and met many of his followers.

“The night journey was a great miracle that Muslims believe was given to Prophet Muhammad as an honor and as a confirmation of Mecca’s spiritual link to Jerusalem,” according to Muzammil H. Siddiqi, president of the Islamic Society of North America.

Bush taps Texan

President Bush has selected a Texas oilman to serve as U.S. ambassador to petroleum-rich Saudi Arabia.

James Oberwetter, a lobbyist for Hunt Consolidates Inc. and former head of the American Petroleum Institute, is an old family friend, having served as press secretary to Mr. Bush’s father when he served in the U.S. House in the 1960s.

Mr. Oberwetter has also donated $2,000, the maximum allowable contribution, to Mr. Bush’s 2004 re-election bid and gave $1,000 to his 2000 election campaign, according to news reports.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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