WASHINGTON — Though not a single Democratic member of Congress attended the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, and most objected to the move as harming the prospects for a two-state solution, the Democratic Senate leader praised the US president for following through on his campaign promise.
“In a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital,” said Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York. “I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.”
Schumer, who is Jewish, appeared to be a lone voice among his party on Capitol Hill. On Monday morning, the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which Trump addressed via video, aired on all the major cable news channels.
Yet those festivities were also shown in conjunction with massive protests unraveling in Gaza, in which dozens of Palestinians were killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza healthy ministry, in clashes with the IDF.
Some Democrats castigated Israel’s military actions as excessive, while accusing Trump’s policies of exacerbating tensions between the sides.
“Today’s @USEmbassyIsrael opening in Jerusalem & killing of dozens of Gaza protesters advances @netanyahu agenda of occupation & oppression of Palestinians,” tweeted Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota. “@realDonaldTrump policies are fueling conflict, abandoning diplomatic efforts to achieve peace.”
In the hours leading up to the embassy’s opening, two GOP senators scolded Democrats for skipping the event. “That is a sad, sad manifestation,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz said Monday morning in Jerusalem. “I wish he’d have every member of Congress here.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham also expressed regret. “I am disappointed that not one Democrat came,” he said. “What does that say? It’s not for me to tell you what that says. It hurts me. Because I work across the aisle on a regular basis. I think it was a mistake, because there’s too much going on in this region.”
Since Trump announced in December that he would formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there from Tel Aviv, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet with administration officials.
He said that in making the decision, the White House forfeited its capacity to act as an honest mediator in peace negotiations. The Trump administration, for its part, has responded that it is still working to achieve a final-status accord.
The team led by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt reportedly plans to still release a peace plan in the near future.
But while all are in the region for the embassy opening, none have plans to meet with Palestinian officials, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told reporters on Friday.
In his video remarks, Trump reiterated the argument of his underlings, saying, “The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement.”