Columns

Trump’s Israel Trip Was ‘the Moment’ to Announce Embassy Relocation, Lawmaker Says

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of House members called on President Trump to move the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Some had speculated that Trump would announce the embassy relocation, which was one of his campaign promises, during his recent trip to Israel.

“With new prospects for supporting Israel under President Trump, Congress needs to do everything it can to fulfill our promise of recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the state of Israel and to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) at an Israel Allies Foundation congressional reception on Wednesday evening. “Jerusalem is the site of Israel’s president, parliament and Supreme Court. However, you have a world community that’s not letting Israel have official world acceptance of that and that’s wrong. I don’t know of any other country in the world that’s not allowed to name its own capital and be accepted by the rest of the world.”

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) said President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush “committed” to moving the embassy but did not follow through with the 1995 law requiring the relocation. Green said that he hopes Trump moves forward with the embassy relocation but described Trump’s visit to Israel earlier this week as “a good trip” overall.

“Why would we not have our embassy in the capital city of Israel? It just doesn’t make any sense, and if somebody wants to stop the peace process because of that they have a whole bunch of things they’re not going to agree on,” Green told PJM. “I’m a Democrat and I’m not sure what’s going through President Trump’s head to do that, but he committed to it. But again, on a bipartisan basis, we’ve been deflated before – hopefully that won’t be this time, because next time I go to Israel I would hope we’ll see groundbreaking on our embassy there.”

Some of the lawmakers at the event were disappointed that Trump make a statement in Israel committing to the embassy move. The administration has said it’s considered the proposal, and has also indicated that a Mideast peace agreement is a priority.

“I think the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem because Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. I’m sorry that President Trump, who said during his campaign that we would move it, hasn’t done it, but I’m hoping he will in the future,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). “I was in favor of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. I voted for it in the original legislation.”

Engel continued, “To be fair to President Trump, none of the presidents moved the embassy. I think it’s frankly something President Bush should have done, something President Obama should have done and something President Trump should do. You know, he’s new. There’s still plenty of time – let’s hope he does the right thing.” The law includes a national security waiver that presidents have invoked to stall the move.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said now is the time to move the embassy.

“I’ve been to the site our embassy is supposed to stand – that land is in a part of Jerusalem permanently allocated to Israel under the Saudi peace plan. It is time for the United States, when it comes to Jerusalem, to be at least as pro-Israel as the government of Saudi Arabia,” Sherman said.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told PJM that Trump’s trip to the Middle East was “the moment” to make an announcement related to the embassy.

“I think it would have been a perfect opportunity. I think there would have been a way to couch it in diplomatic terms to say, ‘We’re grateful to the Arab world, we’re grateful to anyone who has joined with us in the fight against ISIS, but we need now to do like we do with every other country related to our most cherished ally, Israel, and that is to recognize their own capital.’ And there really is no real debate about that and I think it would have been the time to do it,” Franks said.

Franks suggested that Trump could decline to sign the waiver in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 to begin the process of establishing the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

“I think there would have been some pushback but probably less than there will be in the future, and this was the moment. And I hope there will be another one, and I hope at this point the president decides just not to sign the waiver – and if that doesn’t happen, then I hope a bill moves through the Congress to the president. If we can put it on his desk, I don’t think he’ll veto it,” he said.

During his speech at the event, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) praised Nikki Haley’s performance as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“We have never had an ambassador who was spoken with as much moral authority as Ambassador Nikki Haley,” he said, after telling the crowd he was also a big fan of former Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. “Every time I turn on CNN for anything that’s going on at the UN, I hear the most powerful words spoken directly and so does the rest of the world.”