Another betrayal of trust?


Having sold out the Palestinians to salve our guilty consciences we now face an untenable conundrum. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently said that it is United States policy that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that they plan to move the U.S. Embassy there..

This is contrary to the position stated in 1971 by George H.W. Bush when Ambassador to the United Nations.

On September 25, 1971, then-Ambassador George Bush, speaking as U.S. Representative to the United Nations, delivered a formal Statement on Jerusalem before the U.N. Security Council explaining the official position of the United States government with respect to the City of Jerusalem. Therein, Ambassador Bush specifically endorsed and repeated a 1969 statement made before the Security Council by his predecessor, Charles Yost, criticizing Israeli occupation policies in East Jerusalem in the following terms.

“The expropriation or confiscation of land, the construction of housing on such land, the demolition or confiscation of buildings, including those having historic or religious significance, and the application of Israeli law to occupied portions of the city are detrimental to our common interests in the city.”

The United States government considers East Jerusalem to be “occupied territory and thereby subject to the provisions of international law governing the rights and obligations of an occupying power.”

Succinctly put, these latter obligations can be found in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which expanded upon and improved–but did not displace–the 1907 Hague Regulations on Land Warfare. The United States government is a party to both the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Regulations, and Israel is bound by the terms of both treaties as well. Ambassador Bush then concluded his 1971 Statement as follows:

” We regret Israel’s failure to acknowledge its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as its actions which are contrary to the letter and spirit of this Convention. We are distressed that the actions of Israel in the occupied portion of Jerusalem give rise to understandable concern that the eventual disposition of the occupied section of Jerusalem may be prejudiced. The Report of the Secretary General on the Work of the Organization, 1970-71, reflects the concern of many Governments over changes in the face of this city. We have on a number of occasions discussed this matter with the Government of Israel, stressing the need to take more fully into account the sensitivities and concerns of others. Unfortunately, the response f the Government of Israel has been disappointing. All of us understand…that Jerusalem has a very special place in the Judaic tradition, one which has great meaning for Jews throughout the world. At the same time Jerusalem holds a special place in the hearts of many millions of Christians and Moslems throughout the world. In this regard, I want to state clearly that we believe Israel’s respect for the Holy Places has indeed been exemplary. But, an Israeli occupation policy made up of unilaterally determined practices cannot help promote a just and lasting peace any more than that cause was served by the status quo in Jerusalem prior to June 1967 which, I want to make clear, we did not like and we do not advocate reestablishing.”

Ambassador Bush’s 1971 Statement has always represented the United States government’s official position on the numerous illegalities surrounding Israel’s annexation and occupation of East Jerusalem since 1967.

For similar reasons, the United States government has never recognized Israel’s annexation of West Jerusalem as valid or lawful either. That is why the U.S. Embassy to Israel still remains in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. Both Bush’s 1971 Statement and similar comments he made as President in 1990 are fully consistent with and indeed required by Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which requires the United States government not only to respect but also to ensure respect for the terms of this Convention by other parties such as Israel “in all circumstances.

As treaties, both the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Regulations are deemed to be the “Supreme Law of the Land” by Article VI of the United States Constitution.

Contrary to the public suggestions made by the U.S, Israel and its supporters, the United States government must support the vigorous application of the international laws of belligerent occupation to produce the termination of all illegal Israeli practices in East Jerusalem (including settlers and settlements), as well as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, together with the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon.


The source of Ambassador George Bush’s 1971 statements is from the November, 1999 text of “The Final Status of Jerusalem,” by Professor Francis Boyle.

(Mr. Charles Howell is Chairman and CEO of Trust for the Future, Inc. in Nashville, TN)