U.S. Jerusalem Policy 'Sharp Break' from Past

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JERUSALEM, Israel - There has been a "sharp break" from previous U.S. policy toward Jerusalem, a former Israeli diplomat told CBN News.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama at the White House this week, at a time when U.S.-Israel relations are in the worst crisis in decades over Jewish building in eastern Jerusalem.

"I think we're seeing a shift in U.S. policy toward Jerusalem," former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Dore Gold told CBN News. Click Play to watch more from Gold on why recent Aministration statements are a departure from the past.

"There's been ambivalence in how to handle the question of Jerusalem before, under various administrations," Gold said.

"True the U.S. did not accept Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem, but it treated Jerusalem separately than the rest of the West Bank," he said.

Gold said for decades Israel built neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem under the administrations of former U.S. presidents, including Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

"So now, by insisting that Israel cannot build for its Jewish communities in the eastern parts of Jerusalem, in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, this does seem to be a sharp break from past U.S. policy," Gold said.

Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel reunited and annexed Jerusalem under its sovereignty.

Israel considers the entire city its eternal capital. The Palestinians want the eastern part for the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Arabs living in the "eastern" part of Jerusalem - which actually encompasses areas to the north, east and south of the city - receive full social security benefits, voting privileges in municipal elections and freedom of movement as Israeli residents.

About 180,000 Jewish Israelis live in neighborhoods there, too, many of which were established decades ago.

Trouble flared two weeks ago during the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, an existing Jewish neighborhood in northern Jerusalem - across the so-called green line.

But Gold said despite the troubles he believes that U.S.-Israeli relations will overcome the present challenges.

"There have been U.S.-Israeli differences when Israel eliminated the nuclear reactor of Saddam Hussein in 1981. We had a very difficult time with the Reagan administration, but it ended [and] we became strategic partners.

"We had differences over settlement activity between Prime Minister [Yitzhak] Shamir and President [George] Bush the father,  back in 1989-1990. But we overcame those differences because we had a more difficult problem, which was Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.

"So I think historically our ultimate strategic interests have trumped these bumps in the road that have occurred from time to time," Gold said.

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CBN News
Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

Correspondent, CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

CBN News is a national/international, nonprofit news organization that provides programming by cable, satellite, and the Internet, 24-hours a day. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.