Senate Votes To Keep U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly recently to keep the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, with only three Senators voting against establishing funding to maintain the diplomatic mission. The amendment approved by 97 Senators effectively makes the embassy relocation permanent. As an amendment to a COVID-19 bill, it was put forward by Senators Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee.
In a move welcomed by Israel and bitterly opposed by the Palestinians, the Trump Administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, in 2018. The U.S. Congress voted to put the embassy in Jerusalem in 1995 in a 93-5 vote in the Senate. The vote to move the embassy in 2017 passed in a 90-0 vote. While the initial decision to move the embassy happened 26 years ago, no U.S. President implemented the plan until then-President Donald Trump.
Currently, the U.S. Embassy is hosted in the former consulate building in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona until a permanent complex is built. The plan to build a permanent embassy structure in Jerusalem was approved in 2019.
President Joe Biden has pledged to take a far different approach toward Israel and the Palestinians but stated he does not plan on moving the embassy back to Tel Aviv. Only Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Carper voted against the move. During a fundraiser call during the Democrat primary campaign, Biden said he would not move the embassy, but called Trump's move "short-sighted and frivolous" as it came without any conditions.
Although Senators Sanders, Carper, and Warren voted against the amendment, no candidate came out in support of moving the embassy back during the Democrat primary. “[Joe Biden] would not move the American embassy back to Tel Aviv,” said a campaign spokesman for the future President at the time. “But he would re-open our consulate in East Jerusalem to engage the Palestinians. He would also return the United States to the effort of encouraging a two-state solution — the only way to truly guarantee Israel’s long-term security as a Jewish and democratic state and meet the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians for a state of their own.”
The Biden Administration’s sentiments give pause as to how the new President will ultimately stand as to the U.S. relationship with Israel, in spite of the historically unprecedented Abraham Accords and the momentum for Arab nations in the region to establish strong relations with Israel, as Iran is seen as the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East.
Last month, Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, confirmed that the new Administration planned to keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem as Republicans pressed him at his confirmation hearing. "Do you agree that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and do you commit that the United States will keep our embassy in Jerusalem?" Senator Ted Cruz (TX) asked Blinken. "Yes and yes," he replied.
The U.S. relationship to Israel has never been more critical to not only Israel’s security, but has been key to improved international relationships throughout the region. The fact that four nations in the region have officially made peace with Israel—and that more are likely to do likewise—reflects disenchantment with the Palestinian’s intransigence over Middle East peace and their continued support of terrorist groups in the area, like Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which are recipients of Iranian support.
It is important that the United States continues to stand with Israel. It is also vital that the Biden Administration reassures the Gulf States and other nations in the region that we will support them in their common stand against the malevolent behavior of Iran. Iran is a threat to those nations, as well as to Israel.