WASHINGTON — Three US senators have introduced legislation that would commit the United States to moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move US presidents have opposed for decades but which President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly signaled he is willing to do.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R) proposed the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act on Tuesday, the first day the new Congress convened on Capitol Hill as Republicans prepare to control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives for the first time since 2007.
The measure is similar to a 1995 resolution, led by former House speaker and current Trump confidant Newt Gingrich, that called to move the embassy. It was immediately dismissed by then-president Bill Clinton, who wanted the future status of Jerusalem settled in final negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Clinton and his two successors — presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama — have repeatedly used the prerogative granted them to delay implementation of that Congressional demand to move the embassy.
But with an incoming president who has indicated he will break with these practices, those pushing for the relocation believe the White House may no longer be an obstacle.
The move would “honor an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill,” Heller said.
Supporters of relocation were also given a boost last month when Trump selected his longtime friend and attorney David Friedman to be his administration’s ambassador to Israel.
In a statement announcing the selection, Friedman, a vocal supporter and even donor to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, said he expected to carry out his duties in “Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
It was a further indication of the president-elect’s apparent resolve to follow through on a campaign pledge he repeatedly made to Jewish audiences.
According to reports, Trump’s advisers are already in the process of planning the relocation. Campaign manager and soon-to-be White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said it was “a very big priority for him.”
On Tuesday, as the 115th Congress was sworn in and the GOP began laying out plans that included massive tax cuts, regulation rollbacks and repealing President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, Cruz, Rubio and Heller added the embassy move to the GOP agenda.
“Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s vendetta against the Jewish state has been so vicious that to even utter this simple truth – let alone the reality that Jerusalem is the appropriate venue for the American embassy in Israel – is shocking in some circles,” Cruz said in a statement.
“But it is finally time to cut through the double-speak and broken promises and do what Congress said we should do in 1995: formally move our embassy to the capital of our great ally Israel.”
During the course of his 2016 bid for the White House that came up short, Cruz repeatedly vowed to move the embassy were he elected.
Rubio, also a candidate in the last election cycle, frequently touted his support for the Jewish state, and on Tuesday said Jerusalem is “where America’s embassy belongs.”
“It’s time for Congress and the President-Elect to eliminate the loophole that has allowed presidents in both parties to ignore US law and delay our embassy’s rightful relocation to Jerusalem for over two decades,” he said in a statement.
The move is likely to get pushback from liberal activists and Democrats in Congress who fear moving the embassy could complicate America’s ability to work with Palestinians and many Arab states, as well as inflame tensions in the region.