A group of American Jews urged president-elect Barack Obama on Thursday to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which the international community does not recognize as the capital of the Jewish state.
The move would make the United States the only country to have its main diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital.
"President Obama likes using the word change. It is time for change. Now is the time to show support for Israel by moving the embassy here," Orthodox Union President Stephen Savitsky told AFP.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act requires the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem by 1999, but both President George W. Bush and his predecessor Bill Clinton have deferred its implementation every six months.
The call on Obama to move the embassy is a centerpiece of the Orthodox Union’s biennial convention currently held in Jerusalem, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA.)
Some 100 members of the U.S. Jewish Orthodox Union gathered on Thursday near the site which Congress earmarked in a 1995 bill as the location of the future U.S. embassy in west Jerusalem.
According to the JTA, participants viewed an enlarged version of a petition signed by O.U. congregations calling on Israel "to oppose and reject any proposal or plan to relinquish any part of Yerushalayim to any foreign authority."
Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon said that if the U.S. embassy were moved to Jerusalem, other countries would follow suit.
Israel occupied and annexed Arab east Jerusalem and the Old City in 1967 and considers the city its "eternal, undivided capital."
But the international community refuses to recognize it as Israel’s capital while the Palestinians wish to make east Jerusalem the capital of their future state.
There are no embassies in Jerusalem. They are in the commercial capital Tel Aviv.
(Alarabiya.net and AFP)