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Status of Palestinian State Debated in Middle East - 2002-10-02

The status of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel was (also) in the news this week.

Jerusalem, claimed by Israel as its "eternal" capital. Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem - the older part of the city, which is home to Muslim and Jewish holy sites - the capital of the future independent Palestinian state. United States policy has long been that the status of Jerusalem is an issue to be resolved in the final stage negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But the U.S. Congress inserted legislation recognizing the city as the capital of Israel into the State Department's budget appropriation. President Bush was obliged to sign the bill on Monday, the last day of the fiscal year, to avoid stopping all US diplomatic activity. At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush believes the provision is unconstitutional.

"The opinion of the administration, and it will act on this, is that the language passed by Congress impermissibly interferes with the president's constitutional authority to conduct the nation's foreign affairs. And the president made that perfectly plain. And so, our status of Jerusalem under current law will remain unchanged."

On Monday, a day after Israel ended its siege of Yasser Arafat's West Bank headquarters, the Palestinian leader held meetings with European diplomats in the one building that still remains of his Ramallah compound. When Mr. Arafat walked out with members of the Norwegian delegation, he was met with cheers.


He demanded Israel implement the most recent Security Council resolution, so negotiations could resume and a Palestinian state be created. Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who was visiting Moscow, was being criticized at home for lifting the siege. The action was called for in last week's U.N. resolution and came at the urging of the United States.