US Secretary of State Colin Powell's "accidental" reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in a hearing before Congress last Thursday made waves among Arab states, who called the statement a "dangerous" and "antagonistic" violation of international agreements.
Iran, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt and Qatar issued statements of protest in response to Powell's comment. The Saudi-based Muslim world league even declared that Powell's remarks were based on "the falsification of history and denial of facts by claiming that al-Quds [Jerusalem] is a Hebraic city."
Powell had told Congress that while there is no immediate plan to relocate the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv, President George W. Bush is committed to moving it "to the capital of Israel, which is Jerusalem."
"These comments are dangerous, constitute a deviation from declared US policy and are in flagrant violation of international resolutions," the official Emirates News Agency quoted the foreign minister, Sheik Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as telling US Ambassador Theodore Kattouf. "The position declared by the secretary of state takes away the credibility of the United States in the Middle East. This position represents a clear bias toward occupation and aggression," Hamdan said.
Syria's state-run newspaper Al-Thawra, which reflects government thinking, called Powell's statement "a new and dangerous stand... [and] provides new evidence that the American bias toward Israel and support for it... is a strategic and fixed principle of US policy."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi condemned Powell's remarks as representing "one-sided support for the Zionist regime and a phase-by-phase denial of the rights of the Palestinian nation," the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. He also warned that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem would "escalate tension in the region."
In 1980, the United States abstained when the Security Council passed a resolution that said Israel could not declare Jerusalem its capital. But in 1995, the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, which declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and mandated moving the American Embassy there. However, former US President Bill Clinton used a presidential waiver authority provided by the Act to delay the embassy move there every six months.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said Thursday that Arab countries object to recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital without also recognizing east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
The 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference called last November for member countries to sever relations with states that move their embassies to Jerusalem.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.