Senators split over US recognition of Jerusalem

WASHINGTON – Anticipation is rising in Washington for the Trump administration’s upcoming decision on recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking a 50 year bipartisan precedent. Axios reported last Friday that President Donald Trump will offer US recognition on Wednesday. On Sunday, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said that he is unaware of how the President will proceed on Jerusalem.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) told Jewish Insider on Monday evening that he supports the White House recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “It’s a matter of reality and it’s a matter of honoring the right of a sovereign nation ally to decide where their capital city is and their capital city is Jerusalem,” he explained. The Mississippi lawmaker added that he is also in favor of maintaining a US Embassy in Jerusalem. “There are a number of (US) consulates in Jerusalem. All we need to do is a hang a sign up front that says US Embassy,” he asserted.

While the deadline for the national security waiver to keep the US Embassy in Tel Aviv was supposed to have passed on Monday, the White House declined to announce its policy decision.

“It needs to be done at the right time and in the right manner,” explained Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  “I don’t see any peace process beginning any time soon so I seriously question the wisdom of making the choice now.”

Israeli leaders have repeatedly emphasized that they support both Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital along with the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Nonetheless, Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian officials have intensified their diplomatic campaigns against the possible US move arguing that it could lead to a spike in violence.

“It is something the President has been committed to doing,” said Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA). “I think it’s an appropriate step forward for Israel.”

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump vowed he would transfer the US Embassy to Jerusalem. But, on June 1, the President signed the national security waiver, preserving the status quo of the US facility in Tel Aviv.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), a more centrist voice who was one of only two Democrats to back the nomination of US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, noted that he has spoken to AIPAC officials and Jewish community members about this issue. “The timing is in the diplomacy of it. Does it cause more friction and more problems than what we need right now or can we go ahead and put a timetable to it?  I don’t think with all of the negotiations going on right now that we need to be in a situation that will make things a little bit more challenging,” he noted.

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