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DeSantis to Trump: Don’t Sign Another Embassy Waiver, Israel Isn’t ‘Giving Up Jerusalem’

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) speaks on Capitol Hill on Oct. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON – Some House Republicans are optimistic that President Trump next month will allow the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after deciding against the move in June.

Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 to delay the move, arguing that he wanted to let the administration’s efforts at fostering an Israel-Palestinian peace process play out.

“I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” Trump told Mike Huckabee last month.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), co-chairman of the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus, urged Trump not to sign the waiver again, adding that Israel is not “giving up Jerusalem.”

“I’ve been the leading proponent in the Congress for relocating our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” said DeSantis at The Middle East Forum’s briefing on “Organizing for Israel Victory” in the Capitol on Wednesday. “The president promised he would do it. He likes to follow his promises. I think with this waiver coming up in December, I don’t think he should sign the waiver for stalling the move. I think he should let the law kick in, the ’95 law. It’s been 22 years since that law was enacted by the Congress.”

DeSantis said he does not “buy” the argument that moving the embassy has been a “national security threat” for 22 years.

“We did a trip in March. We’ve identified sites. It can be done by just flipping a sign, so I am hoping that happens coming up. I think it would have been more ideal to do it on Day One or at least in May when he went over for the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War but nevertheless that’s where we are here,” he said.

“To me, Jerusalem is off the table” in talks, he added. “We have to put that embassy there and say this is Israel’s eternal capital, and we shouldn’t have any delusions that somehow Israel is going to be giving up Jerusalem.”

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) said he is “not disappointed” the embassy has not been moved, but he’s optimistic Trump will do so before the end of his first term.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) shared a different point of view.

“I’m disappointed the embassy has not been moved. It needs to be moved as soon as possible. I hope the next time the waiver comes around the president will turn down the possibility of a waiver and say, ‘Let this go forward,’” Lamborn said. “There’s really no reason; we’re going to do it sooner than later, we might as well do it now.”

PJM asked Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), co-chairman of the caucus, if he is also disappointed that Trump has not gone forward with his vow to move the embassy.

“I’m not going to criticize the president. I think he’s going to stand true to his promise,” he replied. “I think he wants to move the embassy to Jerusalem. I’m absolutely supportive of that. It should have been done a lot time ago. When that happens, though, I think it’s for heads of states to work that out, and I think the less we can get criticism the better off we’re going to be.”

Johnson suggested leaving the timing of the embassy move up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while the peace process continues.

“If I were the president, I’d ask the prime minister, you want me to do it now or you want me to hold off a while? Which is going to further the cause?” the congressman said.

In June, Netanyahu said he was disappointed Trump did not decide to relocate the embassy.

“Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today’s expression of President Trump’s friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the embassy in the future,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office.