President Donald Trump signed a waiver to delay moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a tool to help him pursue a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. However, a House subcommittee on national security is laying the groundwork for if and when the move finally happens.
“Jerusalem has been the capitol of the Jewish people for thousands of years and is the beating heart of modern Israel,” Subcommittee Chairman and Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis said. “Why should we reject the chosen capitol city of a close ally?” he asked.
Israel if the only nation in which America has an embassy that isn't located in the country's chosen capitol city.
It’s been more than 20 years since Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act that states Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel, that it should remain an undivided city and that the American embassy should be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The law gives the president authority to sign a waiver every six months to delay the moving of the embassy, which is what every president has done since 1995.
Wednesday the subcommittee looked into the national security challenges and opportunities of moving the embassy. A number of Arab countries have warned that if the embassy is moved, the Muslim world will be so outraged that stability in the region will deteriorate.
Ranking member Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts urged his colleagues to heed those warnings.
“I’m advising caution that we consider the regional, including the Israeli security interests, on this issue and that we give respect to our allies in the region… moving forward, but proceeding with caution,” Rep. Lynch said.
Rep. DeSantis noted the religious freedom enjoyed by all faiths in Jerusalem, a value started and promoted by the Jews.
“During the Arab occupation of the old city between 1949 and 1967 Jews were discriminated against and Christians were treated as second class citizens. Most of the city’s synagogues were destroyed or desecrated. While under Israeli care, religious freedom is the rule and all holy sites are treated with care and respect,” DeSantis said.
Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton testified that it would be beneficial and practical for America’s diplomats in Israel to be located close to Israel’s seat of government.
“Relocating the embassy would not adversely affect negotiations over Jerusalem’s final status or the broader Middle East peace process, nor would it impair our diplomatic relations among predominantly Arab or Muslim nations,” Bolton told the committee. “In fact, by its honest recognition of reality, shifting the embassy would have an overall positive impact for U.S. diplomatic efforts.”
Although the moving of the embassy is on hold, DeSantis says there are steps the U.S. government can take in the meantime such as having the consulate in Jerusalem report to the American embassy in Israel as opposed to the State Department and having the U.S. ambassador to Israel conduct part of his work week from Jerusalem.
DeSantis recently traveled to Israel to identify a location in Jerusalem where the U.S. could locate its embassy.