WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s first official trip overseas this week took him to the capital cities of Riyadh, Brussels, Vatican City and Tel Aviv – but some Arizona lawmakers think he went to the wrong capital city while in Israel.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, joined 40 other House members, including two from Arizona, on a letter urging Trump to make good on a campaign promise to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the “eternal and undivided capital” of Israel.
“America stood with the Jewish people restoring their ancient state. It is now time to recognize her ancient and eternal city as her eternal and undivided capital,” Franks said during one of three events in Washington this week to urge the embassy move.
While Franks and others – including Republican Reps. Paul Gosar of Prescott and Andy Biggs of Gilbert – believe such a move would be the right thing to do, others say it would set back the already difficult peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians, both of whom lay claim to Jerusalem.
“We’ve seen time and again in the recent history of Jerusalem that even seemingly small and symbolic changes in the status quo regarding Jerusalem can ignite tremendous violence or contribute to already high tensions between the parties,” said Dylan Williams. He is vice president of government affairs for J Street, which describes itself as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization in Washington.
After the 1967 War, Israel claimed the eastern part of Jerusalem while Palestinians occupied the west. No countries recognize the sovereignty of either party over the city. A move of the U.S. Embassy would be historic, Williams said.
“Every American administration for the past 50 years, Republicans and Democrats alike, have regarded the status of Jerusalem as an issue to be resolved between the parties themselves via negotiation,” he said.
But candidate Trump said during the campaign that he would move the embassy if elected president.
“We will move the American Embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” said Trump on the campaign trail last year.
The move would acknowledge Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the Jewish State. A move that Franks and others think should be done during the trip.
Despite concerns raised by groups like J Street, Franks believes the U.S. has a duty to stand with Israel.
“Our commitment is foremost, in this moment, to our ally Israel. The most important ally we have in the world,” said Franks.
Even though candidate Trump promised to move the embassy, news reports indicate that President Trump is expected to re-sign a reoccurring waiver at the end of this month, that would keep the Embassy in Tel Aviv for now.
A request for comment from the State Department was not immediately returned Wednesday.
– Cronkite News video by Emma Lockhart