Reform Jewish Movement Finds Understandable Reasons for U.S. Embassy to Stay in Tel Aviv
Rabbis Yoffie, Menitoff, Hirsch and Saperstein: "The American Embassy in Israel belongs in Israel's eternal capital — Jerusalem.... There are, nevertheless, understandable reasons not to force a decision on moving the embassy at this precise moment."
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Contact: Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800
NEW YORK, June 18, 1999 — Responding to President Clinton's exercise of his authority to waive relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the leadership of the Reform Jewish movement today said that "there are, nevertheless, understandable reasons not to force a decision on moving the embassy at this precise moment."
The President's decision was precipitated by legislation passed in 1995 that mandates that the President begin moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999 or certify to Congress that "suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States."
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, Executive Director of the American Reform Zionist Association/World Union NA; and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We believe, with all of am Yisrael, that Jerusalem is eternal capital of Israel. That belief is unshakable, and it naturally follows that we support moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. For us, it is indisputable that is where the embassy belongs.
There are, nevertheless, understandable reasons not to force a decision on moving the embassy at this precise moment. To be clear, this is about when, not about whether, to move the embassy. Both Congress and the President recognize that our embassy belongs in Jerusalem, but there are a number of critical, and complicating, factors at play right now:
- The American role in the Middle East Peace Process hinges on its ability to serve as a trusted partner. Any action outside the context of negotiations, including moving the embassy, compromises that indispensable role.
- Israel and the Palestinians have themselves agreed that issues concerning Jerusalem should be addressed only during "final status" negotiations. It is prudent for the United States to refrain from actions that may interfere with those negotiations.
- Prime Minister Barak is now intensely engaged in the process of forming a new government in Israel. During this critical time, all parties would be wise to refrain from actions that they know will create tension and controversy in the region.
Although we understand President Clinton's decision to exercise his authority not to move the embassy at this time, we reiterate our position that the American Embassy in Israel belongs in Israel's eternal capital — Jerusalem. (This is especially true since the plot of land the United States has purchased for a future embassy is in West Jerusalem, over which there is no controversy.) Let us pray for a speedy resumption of the peace talks, and for a just and lasting peace for Israel, the Palestinians, and for all those in a region that has known so much war.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.