Is Israel's annual Jerusalem Day holiday a "provocative" act? Don't ask the U.S. State Department.
In a back-and-forth briefing with spokesman Phillip J. Crowley, reporters got a first-hand understanding … sort of … on how the State Department views the national Israeli holiday commemorating the reunification of its capital city.
The exchange between “P.J.” and the reporters, who peppered him with questions about the holiday, speaks for itself:
"Q: Israel has celebrated the 43rd anniversary of Jerusalem reunification today, and its mayor pledged to keep the city undivided. Do you have anything to say on this?
A: Our position is longstanding. It's always been clear. Jerusalem is a final status issue, which is why we continue to encourage both sides to get into direct negotiations.
Q: Does the Israeli celebration – is that something that is a provocative act?
A: Well, as we have always said, both sides have particular responsibilities to enhance the conditions under which negotiations can proceed and both sides have to be cautious in what they say and what they do.
Q: Yeah, okay. And does this commemoration – is that the kind of caution you're looking for?
A: I'm not going to take the bait.
Q: I'm just asking. I mean, are you happy that they did this? Are you – do you think it's unhelpful? Do you think that it –
A: We have always cautioned both sides to be careful in what they say and what they do.
Q: Right, I understand.
A: I know. I'm not going to characterize it one way or the other.
Q: Well, P.J., if you're unhappy with it, why don't – you don't – this doesn't matter? You don't think that this has any effect on the – I mean, if you don't, that's fine. But can't you say that?
A: Any other questions?"
Israelis have celebrated the city's reunification since the IDF restored the ancient holy sites and surrounding neighborhoods to Jerusalem as part of its victory in the 1967 Six-Day War – more than 40 years ago. The areas were part of the city in 1948, but were lost in the War of Independence when they were overrun and conquered by the Jordanian army. From 1948 to 1967, Jordan, which had never had jurisdiction there before, occupied the sections of the city today referred to by international media as "East Jerusalem."
The United States and the rest of the international community have been unwilling to recognize Israel's sovereignty over those areas of Jerusalem restored to the capital in 1967.
In addition, the Palestinian Authority has demanded that Israel hand over those area, where it wants to establish a capital in the formation of a new Arab country in PA-controlled areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
The United States currently plans to launch “proximity talks,” in which it will negotiate final status issues with Israel on behalf of the PA, rather than insist on direct talks between the two sides, as has been the case for the past 16 years.