Via Jewish Ideas Daily I found this rather enlightening article, “Where is Israel’s Capital?” by Jonathan Tobin (originally published in Commentary Magazine). In the article Tobin explains the origin of the complicated American approach to Israel’s possession of Jerusalem, and how they get around not placing their embassy there. He goes on to note how Obama’s hostility to Israel, far from encouraging the Arabs to participate in the “peace process”, has in fact caused the Palestinians to show even more intransigence.
The Obama administration notified Congress late on Friday that, once again, it is not moving the United States Embassy to the state of Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Although Congress mandated that the embassy be moved to the city that is actually Israel’s capital in 1995, it included a waiver that allows the law to be flouted if the president believed America’s national security interests are at stake. Such waivers have been invoked every six months since the law’s passage and they have usually been sent out on Friday afternoons so as to limit news coverage of the decision.
[The law to move the embassy to Jerusalem] was sponsored by then Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, a politician who had never previously shown much interest in Israel. In 1995 he was preparing for his futile run for the presidency the following year, so it made sense for him to pretend as if he cared about Jerusalem. But the law, which was welcomed by pro-Israel activists at the time, did nothing to move the embassy. And the ritual of the waiver, which presidents of both parties have regularly invoked, has actually dampened support for the idea since advocacy for the move is seen as transparently cynical.
In spite of all that, President Obama has infused some life into the issue. His decision to speak of Jewish neighborhoods in the city as “settlements” that must be frozen and his insistence on using the 1967 lines as the starting point for future negotiations as opposed to Bush’s frank acknowledgment that those neighborhoods and the surrounding settlement blocs will always be part of Israel, has put the status of Jerusalem back on the political front burner. The applause from the Palestinian Authority for Obama’s decision on the embassy illustrates the way his stand has encouraged Arab intransigence on the issue. While both Clinton and Bush gave us the impression that they would like to move the embassy after the signing of a theoretical peace treaty with the Palestinians, Obama’s attitude is far more negative. America’s stubborn refusal to move its embassy has always been an obstacle to peace. But under Barack Obama, it is also a symbol of his administration’s hostility to a united Jerusalem.