July 8, 1999
Hillary Clinton Backs Israel on JerusalemBy REUTERS
[W] ASHINGTON -- First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, breaking with U.S. official policy, told an Orthodox Jewish organization based in New York that she considers Jerusalem "the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel."
She also promised that, if New Yorkers elected her to the U.S. Senate, she would support a strong Israel and favor moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, she said.
She took the unorthodox policy positions in a letter to the Orthodox Union dated July 2 and obtained by Reuters on Thursday. The Orthodox Union represents about 750 orthodox Jewish synagogues across the United States.
U.S. policy is that Israel and the Palestinians should decide the fate of Jerusalem in talks on "final status" issues, together with borders, refugees and Jewish settlements.
U.S. leaders have said they do not want to see the city again divided, as it was between 1948 and 1967, but they have never publicly accepted the Israeli view that it is the "eternal and indivisible" capital of the Jewish state.
Palestinians see the old eastern and mainly Arab part of the city, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, as the capital of a future independent Palestinian state.
A U.S. official described Hillary Clinton's letter as "untimely," coming just as a new Israeli government has raised hopes of progress in Middle East talks.
The first lady, who is exploring the possibility of running for the Senate in New York next year, made the promises in response to a letter on June 8 from Mandell Ganchrow, the president of the Orthodox Union.
Ganchrow asked if she considered Jerusalem to be the indivisible eternal capital of Israel and if she would vote to deprive the U.S. president of his authority to delay the process of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
The retiring senator whose seat she would contest, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been strongly pro-Israeli. He was one of the sponsors of the 1995 legislation which called on the administration to move the embassy by May 31 this year.
"I personally consider Jerusalem the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel, and I admire the leadership shown by Sen. Moynihan on this issue," Clinton answered.
"If I am chosen by New Yorkers to be their senator, ... you can be sure that I will be an active, committed advocate for a strong and secure Israel able to live in peace with its neighbors, with the United States Embassy located in its capital, Jerusalem," she added.
Hillary Clinton added one condition for the embassy move. "The timing ... must be sensitive to Israel's interest in achieving a secure peace with its neighbors," she wrote.
The letter did not take a position on whether the president should have the right to delay a move.
Her husband, President Bill Clinton, used his waiver power in June, saying the embassy must stay in Tel Aviv for the moment "to protect our critical national security interests, most crucially in preserving the prospects for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace."
An embassy move at this stage would infuriate Palestinians and other Arabs, who refuse to recognize Israel's unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem and continue to consider it occupied territory subject to the Geneva conventions.
Hillary Clinton's previous intervention in Middle East politics was also controversial, in the opposite direction.
In May 1998 she said a Palestinian state should emerge from Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and the West Bank. The White House said her remark reflected her personal opinion and did not mark a change in U.S. policy.
The Orthodox Union said it was releasing her letter because "it is crucial that the Jewish community of New York be informed of her opinions concerning Israel and Jerusalem."
Her possible Republican rival for the Senate seat, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has won over many formerly Democratic Jews with strongly pro-Israeli positions.
Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company