Senators Try to Push Jerusalem Recognition, Embassy Move Amid Administration Reticence

WASHINGTON -- Senators are trying to push the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv as the Trump administration backs off the president's campaign promise to move U.S. diplomats to Jerusalem.

Action in the upper chamber this week comes as President Trump leaves for Saudi Arabia today on a trip that will include sites in Israel and a visit with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.

During trip planning, a U.S. diplomat reportedly told Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall was not in Israel. Asked about the administration's policy at a press conference Tuesday, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said it “sounds like a policy decision" and refused to answer where the Western Wall is located. White House press secretary Sean Spicer then also ducked around the question, stating, “It's clearly in Jerusalem.”

“It's an issue that's had serious consideration,” Spicer added. “It will be a topic that's going to be discussed during the president's trip between the parties that he meets with.”

After taking office, Trump said he would review his pledge to move the embassy. When Abbas visited the White House earlier this month, Trump declared that his priority was forging a Mideast peace deal and said Abbas is a partner in that endeavor.

U.S. officials have been telling reporters this week both that Trump had decided against the embassy move for now and that he was waiting to decide until after his visit to the region.

On Wednesday, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced a sense of the Senate resolution stating "it should be the policy of the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel both de jure and de facto" and "the United States Embassy should be relocated to Jerusalem."

"Every citizen of Israel should have the right to reside anywhere in the undivided city of Jerusalem," the resolution states, and "the President and the Secretary of State should publicly affirm as a matter of United States policy that Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of the State of Israel."

It adds that U.S. officials "should refrain from any actions that contradict United States law on this subject" and "any official document of the United States Government which lists countries and their capital cities should identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."

Cruz said in a statement, “It is time for the United States to implement a law that Congress passed more than two decades ago, formally recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided capital of Israel, and move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Heller, Rubio and Cruz introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act in January to withhold certain State Department funds until the U.S. government has moved the embassy.