U.S. Senate appropriators proposed removing a longstanding provision barring official U.S. dealings with Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The version of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill approved this week by the Senate appropriations committee removes language from the version passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives that provided that meetings between U.S. and Palestinian Authority officials “for the purpose of conducting official United States Government business with such authority should continue to take place in locations other than Jerusalem.”
The language, and longstanding custom, allows for “social” and “incidental” meetings with Palestinians. The custom heeds Israeli concerns that Palestinians will use official meetings to stake a claim to Jerusalem as their capital.
Aides to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the foreign appropriations subcommittee, said the removal of the language was a gesture to P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, who this month severed his relationship with the Hamas terrorist group after its forces routed troops loyal to Abbas’ relatively moderate Fatah Party from the Gaza Strip.
“People wanted to extend a hand of respect to President Abbas,” said an aide to Leahy.
Additionally, the provision was seen as unnecessarily restrictive. “The committee felt that our diplomats should be in a position to make their own judgments about where they meet and what they are able to discuss w anybody in any country,” a Leahy aide said. The full Senate will consider the bill next week.