The US government is showing confusion on whether or not Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Following a snafu last week, in which the state department cited the Holy City and the Jewish state as being two separate places, the department has been drawn into the spotlight once more.
An Associated Press news reporter squared off with Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman for the state department, during a press conference in Washington. He asked several times what city the US deems to be Israel’s capital, with Nuland replying each time that the issue is subject to negotiations.
The AP reporter also pointed out that the location of the American embassy in Tel Aviv indicates the US has declared that to be the capital city. After asking for the fourth time, the reporter interrupted Nuland’s canned response, saying, “There’s a lot of people out there who are interested in hearing a real answer.”
Several US representatives criticized the duck-and-dodge technique, including US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who is also chair of the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Legitimizing the myth that Jerusalem isn’t part of Israel undermines our ally Israel’s sovereign right to designate its own capital,” she said. “And lends credibility to efforts by Palestinian leaders and extremists who continue to deny the connection of the Jewish people to their historic capital, Jerusalem.”
The questioning followed a reissuing of a travel itinerary for the secretary of state. In an early version of the guide, the department made a differentiation between Jerusalem and Israel, implying one was not connected to the other. The itinerary was eventually re-released with a corrected schedule.
“The first media note was issued in error, without appropriate clearances,” Nuland said. “We reissued the note to make clear that Acting Under Secretary Kathy Stevens will be traveling to Algiers, Doha, Amman, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem.”
The Israeli government recognizes Jerusalem as its capital, though part of the city is occupied by Palestine. Some foreign governments do not believe Israel has the right to claim Jerusalem as such, and when pressed name Tel Aviv as an alternative.