Bush Statement on Jerusalem Gathering Opposition on Hill

Nine members of Congress asked President Bush in a letter Wednesday to issue a clarification that U.S. policy on East Jerusalem has not changed.

In an apparent swipe at Bush’s March 3 statement equating Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, they wrote, “In our view, the status of Jerusalem need not be settled early in the current peace process.”

The letter, initiated by Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) and signed by eight other lawmakers, stated that “Jerusalem should never again be divided.”

And within East Jerusalem, it said, “people should be free to live wherever they wish without regard to their faith.”

But they said recent statements by top U.S. officials “could raise doubts about our longstanding commitment to the right of Jews to live in East Jerusalem.”

The letter, however, was relatively mild compared to statements made on the House floor Wednesday during a one-hour “special order” free-for-all devoted to East Jerusalem.

The session, spearheaded by Rep. Edward Feighan (D-Ohio), saw lawmakers contesting the U.S. positions that East Jerusalem is occupied territory and that its final status should be resolved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.

Some argued that Bush may have torpedoed current peace prospects with his March 3 comment.

Others called on Bush to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Rep. Dante Fascell (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, inserted into the Congressional Record that “the United States should not presume to advise the Israelis what the capital of their country should be. Only the Israelis can make that determination.”

Besides Fascell, 19 other lawmakers inserted written comments into the Congressional Record.

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