With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Dean Heller (R-NV) are once again proposing legislation designed to force the White House into implementing a law passed in 1995, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The law requires the US to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a sign of that recognition.
The Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act 2015, like similar bills proposed in 2011 and 2013, seeks to require the White House to fulfil its obligations in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and required the US embassy to be moved there by 1999 at the latest. The original legislation, however, included a proviso allowing the move to be delayed by presidential signature, to be renewed every six months. This is precisely what Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have done every year since, citing concerns it would harm the Palestinian peace process.
The new bill eliminates the presidential authority to postpone the embassy relocation. It would also require any government document listing countries and their capitals to include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It includes a statement of policy that “the United States…recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel, both de jure and de facto.”
“Almost fifteen years ago Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate,” Cruz wrote in a statement Tuesday, reported by The Times of Israel. “It is my hope that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle support this important bill. It is long past due for our government to finally and unequivocally recognize Israel’s historical capital both in word and deed.”
The bill, which was introduced late last week, will be going before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but there is no word on when the committee will begin working on advancing the legislation.
With Republicans in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the bill stands a chance of passing Congress this time, but it is likely to be vetoed by the President.
Meanwhile, a ruling in the related matter of Zivitofsky vs. Kerry is expected in the coming months from the Supreme Court. The issue stems from the Zivitofsky family demand to enforce a 2002 law which would allow them to have Jerusalem, Israel listed in their son’s American passport as his birthplace. When then-President Bush signed the bill into law, he also issued a statement acknowledging he would not actually uphold the law, as it “impermissibly interferes with the President’s constitutional authority to conduct the Nation’s foreign affairs and to supervise the unitary executive branch.” Currently, his passport says just “Jerusalem”.
Like the proposed Cruz-Heller bill, the court decision could hold implications for US foreign policy, as well as the right of Congress to shape that policy. Several other Republican attempts to impact foreign policy, including on Iran, are also underway.