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Where is the Knesset?

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
May 21, 2011
Weekly Standard

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In what country is the Knesset? That sounds like a rhetorical question, akin to the one Groucho Marx would ask losers on his TV show so they would get a consolation prize: “who's buried in Grant's tomb?”

Yet it seems that this question has stumped the State Department. It does not know or will not say what country the Knesset is in, nor—one must assume—does it know what country the prime minister's office, the Israel Museum, or especially the Western Wall are in. The proof is in a remarkable press release from State about the travels of Deputy Secretary James Steinberg.  The May 18 release, in toto, is as follows:

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg visits Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank May 18-19, 2011. In Israel, Deputy Secretary Steinberg met with Israeli academic and student leaders. In the West Bank, he met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian officials. Among other issues, he discussed moving forward on Middle East peace as well as the recent fundamental changes in the region and the United States' response to them.  On May 19, he will participate in the U.S.-Israel Strategic Dialogue. The Strategic Dialogue allows senior U.S. and Israeli leaders to discuss, on a regular basis and in depth, the many issues that affect our mutual security and partnership.

I suppose the poor benighted Israelis believed they were hosting Steinberg in their country when he visited government offices. But he knew better.  What makes this especially egregious is that Israeli government offices—where Mr. Steinberg would have had his official meetings—are actually in west Jerusalem, the portion Israel controlled even before 1967. Yet the Clinton State Department is apparently unwilling to call even that portion of the city "Israel."

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