WASHINGTON — On the first day of the 115th Congressional session, several Republican Senators introduced a measure calling on the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The bill brought by Dean Heller (R-NV), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) also withholds some of the State Department’s funds until the embassy is relocated to Jerusalem.
“It is finally time to cut through the double-speak and broken promises and do what Congress said we should do in 1995: formally move our embassy to the capital of our great ally Israel,” Cruz declared.
In 1995, Congress initially passed a similar measure urging the US Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem. An inbuilt waiver authority allowed the president to postpone the move, in the interests of “national security,” for six-monthly periods. Both Republican and Democratic Presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — have issued waivers at six-month intervals ever since.
During the campaign, then Republican candidate Donald Trump promised to “move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem” during a speech at AIPAC’s annual policy conference. After the election, senior transition aide Kellyanne Conway reiterated that relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is “a very big priority for this President-elect.”
“For years, I’ve advocated for America’s need to reaffirm its support for one of our nation’s strongest allies by recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel,” Heller noted in a statement.
Palestinian leaders have consistently decried any attempts to alter the status quo in Jerusalem. Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned that moving the U.S. Embassy would “destroy the peace process.” The veteran Palestinian negotiator added, “What is not Donald Trump’s business is to determine the capitals of other nations, especially when it comes to occupied East Jerusalem.”
However, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer has enthusiastically pushed for the incoming Trump administration to follow through on their promise to relocate the embassy. “It should have happened a long time ago,” Dermer explained at his Embassy’s annual Channukah party.
“The Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act” comes on the heels of other pro-Israel measures advocated by the 115th Congress including a bill that condemns the United Nations for passing Security Council resolution 2234 criticizing Israeli settlements. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has also advocated for cutting funding for the UN after the biased anti-Israel vote in late December.