Freedom Caucus Chairman: ‘Major Disappointment’ if Israel Embassy Not Moved as Trump Promised

Israeli policemen guard the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv as other Israelis line up for U.S. visas on March 17, 2003. (AP Photo/Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi, File)

WASHINGTON – Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said on Wednesday that it will be a “major disappointment” to Jews and Christians like himself if President Trump does not follow through on his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Meadows, during a hearing at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security, noted that the president has another important deadline approaching on Dec. 1, which marks the second waiver deadline for Trump to decide on the move.

The president repeatedly promised to move the embassy during his White House bid, pitching himself as the most pro-Israel president to ever be elected. However, shortly after taking office, Jordan’s King Abdullah II met with Trump at the White House and warned against the move, saying it could have cataclysmic impacts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as Trump has expressed his desire to forge a Mideast peace agreement. Egypt has also warned against moving the embassy. Jordan, which is estimated to be about 75 percent Palestinian, and Egypt are the only Arab nations that have signed peace treaties with Israel.

In June, Trump signed his first waiver, delaying the embassy move by six months. Trump “made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests,” the White House said at the time.

The decision to relocate the embassy was made with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, in which Congress ordered the move to Jerusalem with a threat to withhold State Department funding if the government does not follow through. Administrations have repeatedly invoked the law’s national security waivers to avoid the directive. The facility in Israel is the only U.S. embassy in the world not located in the host country’s capital.

“As an evangelical, it will be a major disappointment to me, and it is something that we have not only brought up with the president directly, I can tell you that he understands that commitment he has made on this particular issue,” Meadows said. “It would be a great message that this president could send on the 50th anniversary of reunification (of Jerusalem) that we go ahead and finally move the embassy to the eternal capital of Israel, Jerusalem.”

One expert warned against the move, citing national security concerns. Israel Policy Forum’s Policy Director Michael Koplow argued that what happens in Jerusalem tends to spark violent incidents around the world.

“An American embassy in West Jerusalem does not prejudice the status of the Old City or negate the eminently reasonable desire of Palestinians to have their future capital in East Jerusalem,” Koplow said in his testimony. “In this instance, what is fair and just may not be the same as what is wise.”

Dore Gold, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the UN in the late 1990s, and John Bolton, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the UN under President George W. Bush, both argued vehemently in favor of moving the embassy as soon as possible.

“I think the appropriate time to make the announcement is today. … I think we should take very seriously the concerns of countries like Jordan and Egypt, but I don’t think that means they have a veto. I think it means we do what diplomats do. We consult with them in advance,” Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said.

“I’m not going to second guess the tactics, the timing, of moving it. (Trump) gave his word in principal that he is going to move the embassy,” Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said. “I think that King Abdullah is a loyal ally to the U.S., and he’s an important partner to the state of Israel, and we have a peace treaty with Jordan, as well.”

Gold agreed that Israel has made significant strides with Sunni Arab states in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, but he argued that Iran is the single most important factor for relations in the Middle East.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said that he’s baffled that the embassy has not yet been moved, given the support from Congress and a president who won a significant amount of votes campaigning on this very issue.

“This is the right time to do this thing, and that’s why the president recognized and campaigned on it and one of the reasons I would say the American people elected him,” Jordan said. “So let’s just get it done, right? You’ve got to remember who your friends are, who share your values, who make the world a better place.”