JERUSALEM, Israel – It may not have happened on "day one" of President Trump's administration, but an official congressional delegation visited the nation's capital over the weekend to explore what would be involved in moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
"A lot of people thought maybe Donald Trump would do this on day one, he did not do that. Some were disappointed," said Congressman Ron DeSantis, R-Fl.
DeSantis, chairman of the Subcommittee for National Security of the House Oversight Committee, led the delegation on its 24-hour fact-finding mission. DeSantis was clear that the group was not sent by Trump but would report back to him.
"Here's the deal and why I thought it was important to come out and get some knowledge in the Congress about where this thing will actually be. He's in a position where he's either going to follow his campaign promise or he's going to have to sign this waiver," DeSantis told reporters at a press conference in Jerusalem.
In 1995, Congress signed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, requiring the U.S. Embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv – where all nations have their embassies – to Jerusalem, which according to Israel is its capital. Since then, every president has signed a security waiver every six months to prevent the move.
This year, Israel marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War. As a result of that war, Israel re-united Jerusalem under its sovereignty and key sites like the Western Wall came back under its control.
"I just think, knowing the president, he's been a man of his word. I don't think that he's going to on the same month where people here in Jerusalem are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem Day, sign the waiver. I would bet that he would not do that (and) that he would announce that the embassy is going to be moving," DeSantis said.
The delegation met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset members and other officials. DeSantis said he had not come across any hesitancy on the part of Israeli leaders for the U.S. to move its embassy as had been reported in the press.
DeSantis said there are three benefits to the U.S. if they follow through.
"One is truth. You know we have this historic connection with the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem," he told reporters in Jerusalem. "Part of the things that have frustrated me and I think some of our colleagues with some of the Palestinians is the denialism about the connection, the deep connection.
"When (PLO Chairman Yasser) Arafat rejected the deal with (then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Barak back in 2000, he scoffed at the idea that there was ever a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount," DeSantis pointed out.
He noted that Jerusalem is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. According to the Bible, King David made Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish people 3,000 years ago.
"There's no other country in the world where we do not locate our embassy in that country's chosen capital city," DeSantis said.
"I do think it's important that the president, having made the pledge, that he follows through with it, he said. "And then third is I think it will really show that America is standing four-square behind our allies here in Israel."
DeSantis said he had not met with Palestinians or other Arab leaders on this trip but had done so in the past, including with Jordan's King Abdullah. He said he did not think that moving the embassy would create an uproar in the Arab world.
"My sense is that if you look at some of the issue that bind our country with say some of the Arab Gulf states may not philosophically agree with this. Their main concern is not Jerusalem right now, its Iran's influence. It's some of the other security threats they face," he said.
"I would also say, when you're dealing with the Arab world, I think it's important to project decisiveness and strength and the president made the promise. By him following through with it, I think some of these other Gulf countries, some of the Arab countries will look at that, and I think they'll see a strong and decisive leader and I think they'll actually respect him more for it."