By Vic Rosenthal
A few weeks ago, I wrote (“US State Department agrees with Hamas“) about the continuing refusal of the US to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I explained that this has nothing to do with territory occupied in 1967, because West Jerusalem, where the seat of Israel’s government is located, became part of Israel in 1948. I said,
West Jerusalem was not included as part of the Jewish state in the partition resolution of 1947 — all of Jerusalem was supposed to be under UN control. But when the armistice agreements were signed in April 1949, Jerusalem was divided between the new state of Israel and Jordan, and the UN zone had evaporated. Nevertheless, in December 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution  calling for Jerusalem to be a corpus separatum administered by the UN as in the original resolution, despite opposition from Israel, Jordan and the US.
The Arabists of the State Department, however, seeing a chance to stick it to Israel, maintained for years that only the UN can dispose of Jerusalem. Here is a 1962 statement of the position:
…the status of Jerusalem is a matter of United Nations concern and no member of the United Nations should take any action to prejudice the United Nations interest in this question. Our objective has been to keep the Jerusalem question an open one and to prevent its being settled solely through the processes of attrition and fait accompli to the exclusion of international interest and an eventual final expression thereof presumably through the United Nations.
After the Oslo agreement, the State Department switched to saying “the final status of Jerusalem must be determined by negotiation between the parties [Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA)]”. But note that all of Jerusalem is still in play according to them, and therefore they refuse to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
As far as I can tell, this situation is unprecedented. It’s unimaginable that Israel would give West Jerusalem to the Arabs in a final settlement, and even the PA doesn’t claim West Jerusalem (at least not in public).
But it’s not just a question of the US Embassy. As Yisrael Medad points out, the State Department refuses to admit that someone born in any part of Jerusalem was born in Israel:
As American citizens are aware, their children, if born in Jerusalem, whether west Jerusalem or east, I emphasize, are not recognized by the US State Department as being born in Israel. Their birth certificates and subsequently, their passports, will list the “place of birth” as simply “Jerusalem”, a seemingly stateless location.
This rule is recorded in the US Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7 – Consular Affairs 7 FAM 1300 Appendix D which notes:
For a person born in Jerusalem, write JERUSALEM as the place of birth in the passport. Do not write Israel, Jordan or West Bank for a person born within the current municipal borders of Jerusalem…For persons born after May 14, 1948 in a location that was outside Jerusalem’s municipal limits and later was annexed by the city, it is acceptable to enter the name of the location (area/city) as it was known prior to annexation.
Simply, the US does not admit that Israel has sovereignty in Jerusalem. Note that this treatment does not extend to other places which were not part of the Jewish state in the original UN partition plan of 1947, such as Ashkelon and Nahariya. Only Jerusalem merits this treatment, I presume by virtue of being a corpus separatum as called for in UN resolution 303 (December 1949).
Now the US continuing to pay homage to a 1949 resolution that it voted against, that the parties involved strongly opposed, that the UN itself never seriously tried to implement, and that has been de facto inoperative for sixty years is ridiculous. And it isn’t surprising that at some point the State Department decided to ignore it.
But the replacement policy — that the fate of all of Jerusalem will be settled by negotiation between ‘the parties’ — is more than ridiculous, it’s outrageous.
Imagine if suddenly various countries decided that Washington DC did not belong to the US, but would need to be disposed of by negotiations between it and the Conoy Indian tribe (which I’m sure was not properly compensated when the capital was built).
At a time when the US is demanding a great deal from Israel in pursuit of its own interests in the Arab world, it would not be out of line for Israel to demand something as simple as recognition of its capital in return.