President Bush has signed legislation that says the United States has to identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But he questioned Congress's authority in the matter, and said long-standing U.S. policy has not changed, that the status of Jerusalem is an issue to be settled by Israel and the Arabs through negotiations.
In legislation authorizing the State Department's $4 billion budget for the coming year, Congress inserted language obligating the United States to refer to Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
But in signing the legislation, President Bush said U.S. policy on the matter has not changed. In a statement released by the White House Monday, the President said Congress's directive could interfere with his prerogative to make foreign policy, and he implied he plans to consider the measure as advisory, rather than mandatory.
Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, and considers the entire city to be its capital. For years, Congress has demanded the United States move its embassy there from its current location in Tel Aviv. But successive American presidents have maintained the issue must be decided in Arab-Israeli negotiations.
Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital would anger the Arab world, which considers East Jerusalem to be Arab land and the capital of a future Palestinian state.