update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Senator asks Biden to clarify if US sees Jerusalem as part of ‘West Bank’

"It’s a simple question that I hope the administration can answer clearly and promptly," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) wrote.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr via Creative Commons.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr via Creative Commons.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s Feb. 1 executive order, imposing sanctions on “persons undermining peace, security and stability in the West Bank,” runs 1,699 words. None of those words is “Jerusalem.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) wrote to Biden on Tuesday asking the president to clarify whether, for purposes of the executive order, the White House considers Jerusalem to be part of the “West Bank,” which is a term the Biden administration, and some others, use for Judea and Samaria.

“Your recent executive order targets Israelis with sanctions who are ‘in the West Bank.’ Does this phrase include Jerusalem?” the Arkansas Republican wrote. “If so, what parts of Jerusalem? Where are the borders within Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, that you are using for purposes of implementing the executive order?”

Cotton asked Biden to respond within a week, by Feb. 27. “Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter,” he wrote.

“It’s a simple question that I hope the administration can answer clearly and promptly,” Cotton wrote on social media. “Does Joe Biden consider Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, to be part of the West Bank in his recent executive order?”

The Biden administration has mulled reopening a consulate for Palestinian affairs in Jerusalem. Former President Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the latter as the united capital of Israel.

The CIA World Factbook’s “West Bank” entry notes that the area is slightly smaller than Delaware and “East Jerusalem and Jerusalem No Man’s Land are also included only as a means of depicting the entire area occupied by Israel in 1967.”

In a 2022 report, the U.S. State Department refers to “West Bank and Jerusalem” and to “Jerusalem and West Bank” apparently as separate entities.

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