Thursday, March 17, 2011

H. R. 1006, Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act of 2011, Introduced By Rep. Burton

Twice a year, every year since 1995, every occupant of the White House has signed a waiver of the Jerusalem Embassy Act (see this), thereby hitting the snooze button on legislation that would require the Secretary of State to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. Severe political and diplomatic complications would abound if a SecState did that, hence the long bi-partisan series of waivers.

Today, Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana introduced a bill called the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act of 2011 that removes the waiver provision of the Jerusalem Embassy Act and forces that recognition. One of his co-sponsors is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, so this bill might be more than just a symbolic effort.

Here is the key section of the bill:

STATEMENT OF POLICY - It is the policy of the United States that the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem as soon as possible, but not later than January 1, 2013.

OPENING DETERMINATION - Not more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of State for fiscal year 2013 for `Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad' may be obligated until the Secretary of State determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

The bill's enforcement mechanism is the restriction of funds for State's overseas buildings. In other words, unless an embassy is designated somewhere in Jerusalem by New Years Day of 2013, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) will get only half the money it needs to build new fortress embassies, or to fix the leaking roofs and broken air conditioners in the present embassy office buildings.

This is only a bill, and still far from becoming a law. Could it pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the President? I don't know, but, one should never underestimate the self-interest of our elected officials when an election year is upon them.

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