US Dept. Sec. of State Jim Steinberg with Danny Ayalon 311.
(photo credit:Foreign Ministry)
On the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trip to Washington, the State
Department issued a bland announcement of a visit to the region by US Deputy
Secretary of State, James Steinberg, in which it distinguished between Israel,
Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In a “media note” to the press on Wednesday,
the State Department released a two paragraph statement on “Deputy Secretary
Steinberg’s visit to Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank.”
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however, led some to wonder: Isn’t Jerusalem inside Israel, and does this odd
wording presage a subtle change of US policy?
A spokesman at the embassy in Tel
Aviv, however, downplayed fears that this wording was an opaque signal of a
change of US position on Jerusalem. He denied any overarching significance in
the wording, saying that in a region where there is a “great sensitivity” to
words, the US was “trying to be a fair interlocutor.”
The spokesman also
said that this formula has been used in the past in similar statements.
quick, and by no means exhaustive, perusal of some previous statements of
visits, however, did not show this pattern of Jerusalem and Israel being listed
Instead, what was found were the following statements:
March 7, 2010: “Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will depart
Washington, DC, for the Middle East on the evening of Sunday, March 7. They will
travel to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan to discuss the full range
of bilateral and regional issues.”
• October 29, 2010: “Assistant
Secretary Jose Fernandez Travel to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”
13, 2010: “Secretary Clinton Traveling to Sharm e-Sheikh, Jerusalem, Ramallah
• From April 20, 2011: “Ambassador-at-Large for Global
Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer will Travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank
from April 15 through April 22.”
Steinberg, who arrived in the region
Wednesday, and held talks that day with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas in Ramallah, led the US team in the semi-annual US-Israel strategic
dialogue at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday.
Before meeting with Deputy
Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who led the Israeli delegation to the talks,
Steinberg said the strategic dialogue complements the regular day-to-day work
between the countries, and gives a chance to “periodically step back and look at
the broader trends, deeper issues and longer term challenges we
This year, Ayalon said, the sides will discuss the “remarkable set
of political developments throughout the region – but also some of the
longer-term issues, like the problems of proliferation and Iran’s nuclear
Following the meeting, the two sides put out a joint statement
saying that “while focusing on rapid changes in the region, the United States
and Israel remain cognizant of one of the greatest challenges we face today in
the Middle East. Iran’s continued noncompliance with its international
obligations related to its nuclear program, as well as its continued support for
terrorist entities, are of grave concern to our two countries and the entire
“Continued efforts by the international
community to address Iran’s actions through both pressure and engagement are
critical to changing Iran’s strategic calculus and preventing Iran from
acquiring a nuclear weapons capability,” concluded the statement.
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