WASHINGTON – Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) on Monday called on President Trump to fulfill his campaign promise in relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, days after introducing a slate of pro-Israel legislation.
Franks, a longtime advocate for Israel, appeared for a news conference on Capitol Hill on Monday, the same day the president began a two-day trip to Israel. Trump, during a visit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reaffirmed his belief that Israel can forge a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
Franks lambasted former President Obama for his insistence on a two-state solution, while accusing the former president of “political treachery” that disgraced the U.S. and cemented his place as the “leader who betrayed the state of Israel.” Franks said Trump has a historic opportunity to move the embassy to Jerusalem, a city that both Israel and the Palestinians claim as their own.
“We hope very deeply that he follows through (in moving the embassy),” Franks said, adding that the decision would send a clear signal of Trump’s commitment to Israel, recognizing the capital of the world’s only true Jewish state. “Jerusalem should have never been a bargaining chip to bring Palestinians to the negotiating table.”
The administration has indicated that it’s tabling Trump’s previous vow to move the embassy while Mideast peace process negotiations are prioritized.
Franks introduced four pieces of legislation in support of Israel: The first would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the embassy. The second affirms that the U.S. will not support a two-state solution if either party refuses to recognize the other’s right to exist. A third curtails assessed and involuntary funding for what Franks described as the “anti-Semitic” organization the United Nations has become. The fourth would cut off funding for the Palestinian Authority.
The U.S. currently pays the Palestinian Authority between $400 million and $600 million annually, and Trump has discussed with President Mahmoud Abbas development aid to build the Palestinian territories’ economy. The Palestinian Authority spends about $300 million a year on rewards for imprisoned, released and deceased Palestinians who carry out acts of violence against Israelis and others. Rewards include lifetime pensions for the Palestinians and their families. Franks condemned the Palestinian Authority’s payments to “terrorists, to give them salaries for killing innocent people, including Israelis,” while calling Israel America’s most important ally in the world.
Franks’ legislation is similar to the Taylor Force Act, which Congress is also considering. Introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the act prohibits certain aid to the West Bank and Gaza unless the State Department verifies that the Palestinian Authority is taking steps to end violence against Israel and the U.S. and has cut off terrorism funding.
Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein in a recent interview said that cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority would send a clear message “that the jig is up.”
“We’ll no longer ignore your Nazi-like actions, your refusal to make peace with Israel no matter what Israel offers you, and they’ll finally have to make a decision,” Klein said. “So I support (Franks’ bill) fully. This should have been done years ago.”
Klein said that Franks is one of the most pro-Israeli congressmen in Washington, who has a clear understanding that “we’re dealing with an Arab-Islamic war against Israel, not an Arab-Israel conflict.” He expressed frustration that the U.S. has given the Palestinian Authority nearly $5 billion “even while they promote hatred and violence against Jews in their media, their schools and their speeches, even while they’re naming 40 schools and dozens of streets after Jew killers, even while they refuse to put Israel on any of their maps, on their stationery, or their atlases. … It’s really an outrage that America and the world is funding this murderous, terrorist regime.”
Trump met with Abbas on Tuesday, stating that peace between the two states is not possible if “violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.” According to the Times of Israel, Abbas said that the Palestinians’ “fundamental problem is with occupation and settlements and the failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine as we recognize it.”