Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein met with his US counterpart House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) in Washington on Wednesday in hopes of drumming up support for moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a pledge US President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail.
The White House has signaled it may be reconsidering the embassy move, but Israeli officials have continued to push for the relocation, seeing it as long-sought recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from its most important ally.
During his meeting with the House speaker, Edelstein told Ryan he strongly supports moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and that he hopes the move will be approved with strong bipartisan support in Congress.
“The meaning of widespread support in Congress will likely lead to worldwide and regional support” for moving the US embassy, Edelstein told Ryan, according to a press statement from the Knesset speaker.
“If the American Embassy will move — I am sure that additional countries will move their embassies to the capital city” of Israel, Edelstein added.
However, in a statement put out by Ryan, the House speaker made no mention of moving the embassy to Jerusalem, instead emphasizing his “steadfast support for Israel’s security and her inalienable right to self-defense.”
Ryan also thanked Edelstein for his “commitment to strengthening this special relationship” between the US and Israel.
Edelstein invited Ryan to visit Israel at the conclusion of their meeting. Ryan was last in Israel as part of a congressional delegation in April 2016.
Before departing for Washington earlier this week, Edelstein said he would make moving the embassy a centerpiece of his conversations with US lawmakers.
Congress in 1995 passed a law legislating that the US Embassy move to Jerusalem and the measure has continued to enjoy strong bipartisan support. However, Bill Clinton and every president since has made use of a waiver to delay the move for security reasons. Trump will have to decide whether to extend the waiver in May.
Edelstein also met with Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker, who heads the powerful Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and the two discussed events in the Middle East.
The Knesset speaker also asked Corker to help him to establish cooperation with other parliaments in the Middle East on economic, social and environmental issues, in order to promote stability in the region and build relations between Israel and other countries.
Edelstein was also scheduled to meet with Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer (Maryland) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
While Israel claims a united Jerusalem as its capital, the US and the international community have stated that the city’s status must be determined through negotiations with the Palestinians and continue to retain their embassies in Tel Aviv.
The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967 in the Six Day War and extended Israeli sovereignty over in 1980.
While on the campaign trail Trump repeatedly promised to move the embassy from Tel Aviv, but since taking the White House his administration has downplayed the chances of the relocation taking place.
Asked if he was “committed” to moving the embassy to Jerusalem, Trump said: “Well, I’m looking at it… We’re studying it very, very long and hard. You know it’s a very big decision, because every president for the last number of presidents, large number, they’ve come in and they were going to do it and then all of a sudden they decide they don’t want to get involved. It’s a big big decision.”
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) February 1, 2017
On Wednesday, both Ryan and Corker also met with King Abdullah of Jordan, who has expressed strong disagreement to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, a stance he reiterated in meetings he had earlier this week with US Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Arab leaders and others have warned that the move could be met with diplomatic backlash and violence from the Palestinian street.
Raphael Ahren and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.