Presidential Determination — Suspension of Limitations under the Jerusalem Embassy Act

On December 1 this memorandum to the Secretary of State was posted. It cites a 1995 law and suspends the limitations stated in two paragraphs of that law “in order to protect the national security interests of the United States”.

The memorandum is extremely brief with no specific clues as to what this is about. I had to research the law itself – Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 – also officially known as Public Law 104-45 (presumably meaning the 45th law enacted by the 104th Congress) to learn more.

The original law was to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel and also to establish the official U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem rather than its current location in Tel Aviv. This move was to occur no later than May 31, 1999.

In an effort to avoid getting into too much detail, the original law provided for a presidential waiver for six months that could be extended an additional 6 months before the expiration of the waiver. The two paragraphs cited in the current memorandum refer to the funding directive to not authorize more than 50% of the State Department budget until the embassy is established. Obviously, a waiver of the establishment would also require a waiver of the funding limitation or the State Department would not be able to function.

Dating back to June 24, 1999 each president (Clinton, Bush, Obama) has issued notice of waiver of this law every six months. It is therefore a fairly routine matter.

Although I have not read each of the presidential determinations since 1999, I did notice in the 2003 statement by then President Bush that his administration remained committed to beginning the process of moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

Interestingly, that sentence does not appear in the latest Obama determination.

With the very recent statement from the president-elect about his being committed to moving the embassy to Jerusalem, it will be very interesting to see if that is just rhetoric or if he actually begins the process.  My bet is reality will rear its ugly head and every six months this waiver will continue to be signed.


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