Bipartisan Group of Legislators, US Christian Leaders Turn up Heat on Trump Over Jerusalem Embassy Move
As the fiftieth anniversary of Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem during the June 1967 Six-Day War approaches, a bipartisan group of legislators is stepping up the pressure on President Donald Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the Jewish state’s capital.
Christian religious leaders are also centrally involved in the push. Their position was laid out in a May 16 open letter to Trump — signed by 60 prominent Evangelical leaders — which urged that the US “honor its strongest and only true democratic ally in the Middle East by respecting its capital city — Jerusalem — and immediately moving the US Embassy there.”
A Jerusalem Day event on Capitol Hill last week brought together Democratic and Republican legislators with some of the most vocal Christian advocates of an embassy relocation, including Jerry A. Johnson — president of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) — and Susan Michael — US director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).
The current appeals to Trump to act on his campaign rhetoric reflect the widespread frustration that successive presidents have waived the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, despite its passage by both the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities.
“I got to Congress in 1997, and in 1998, I sponsored a bill saying that before we move our embassy in Germany to Berlin, we should move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem,” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) told The Algemeiner. Sherman said that the move of the US embassy to Berlin from Bonn — eight years after the reunification of Germany in 1990 — “illustrates the fact that when a country tells us where their capital is, that’s where we put our embassy.”
Daniel Williams – executive director of the Israel Allies Foundation, which is organizing a petition demanding the embassy be moved to Jerusalem — pledged to keep the issue alive in the event that Trump follows his predecessors by waiving the 1995 Act, a twice-yearly decision that will land on his desk for the first time on Wednesday
“We’re going to stay on this if he signs the waiver,” Williams said. “We’ll continue to build our petition list, and we’ll go back to a broader section of faith leaders. I would like to see us go to Jewish faith leaders in the way that we have Evangelical leaders.”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Co) told The Algemeiner the positive reaction which Trump received during his visit to Israel last week was more evidence that the embassy move was overdue.
“Donald Trump made history by being the first American president to visit the Western Wall and by being the first American president to visit Israel on his inaugural foreign trip,” Lamborn said. “Those were two excellent initiatives on his part, so this is a wonderful opportunity to carry through on his campaign promise.”
Sherman said it was completely unclear to him what action Trump would take on the matter. “While he was there, he avoided this issue, and he also avoided the two-state solution,” Sherman said. “He avoided saying anything so far as I can see.”
One key concern among administration officials is the impact the relocation of the embassy would have on the Sunni Arab states, whom Trump wants to coax into closer relations with Israel based upon the common regional threat Iran currently poses.
“I have heard that argument on a number of occasions, and I think there’s some substance to it,” Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) told The Algemeiner. “But any damage done will be offset by the clarity of our saying that there is no space between the United States and Israel.”
Franks argued that while it was important for the US to show the Arab world that its “good will” remains intact, it had to be made clear “that we are not going to continue to disdain the rights of our most cherished ally.”
Franks warned that the opportunity for an embassy move might not be so ripe under a future president.
“Trump is fundamentally committed to moving to Jerusalem, and this might be the best time we will have — as time progresses, those who are in opposition only gain ground, and add burden to our effort,” he said.