The U.S. Senate, in an extremely rare moment of action without any opposition, has adopted a resolution calling on President Trump to abide by a 1995 law that calls for the U.S. Embassy to be in Jerusalem.
The vote was 90-0, with Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Dan Sullivan of Alaska not voting, along with Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
While the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 calls for the move to Jerusalem, which would be seen worldwide as a resounding affirmation of Israel’s historic claim to Jerusalem, it also provides a waiver the president can sign every six months if he determines the move might harm national security.
The waiver has been employed by both Democratic and Republican presidents ever since, including President Trump just days ago.
However, Trump renewed his commitment to moving the embassy, explaining the timing is not right.
So while the call for the law to be followed is seen by many as a call for the establishment of the embassy in Jerusalem, technically it simply states that the law should be followed.
Now the senators, in a 90-0 vote, have commemorated the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War by adopting S. Res. 176.
The resolution states:
Be it resolved, that the Senate (1) recognizes the 50th Anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and extends its friendship and hopes for peace to the residents of Jerusalem and the people of Israel; (2) reaffirms its support for Israel’s commitment to religious freedom and administration of holy sites in Jerusalem; (3) continues to support strengthening the mutually beneficial American-Israeli relationship; (4) commends Egypt and Jordan, former combatant states of the Six Day War, who in subsequent years embraced a vision of peace and coexistence with Israel and have continued to uphold their respective peace agreements; (5) reaffirms that it is the longstanding, bipartisan policy of the United States Government that the permanent status of Jerusalem remains a matter to be decided between the parties through final status negotiations towards a two-state solution; and (6) reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104–45) as United States law, and calls upon the President and all United States officials to abide by its provisions.
The resolution also points out Jerusalem has been the focal point of Jewish religious devotion for 3,000 years.
WND reported one week ago when Trump, following a provision of the 1995 law, signed a waiver delaying the embassy move for another six months.
Netanyahu said he was disappointed that the U.S. Embassy, now in Tel Aviv, will not move to Jerusalem immediately. But he’s grateful that Trump has committed to doing exactly that in the future.
“Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today’s expression of President Trump’s friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the Embassy in the future,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.
“Maintaining embassies outside the capital drives peace further away by helping keep alive the Palestinian fantasy that the Jewish people and the Jewish state have no connection to Jerusalem,” he said.
Israel, he said, believes “that the American Embassy, like the embassies of all countries with whom we have diplomatic relations, should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”
While Trump signed the waiver, a statement on the White House website explaining his reasoning.
“No one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the president’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance,” the White House said. “President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all had used such waivers.
On Oct. 23, 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and requiring the U.S. Embassy to be moved there by May 31, 1999. The law passed the Senate by 93-5 and the House by 374-37. Yet, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama each signed the waiver provision every six months, citing national security concerns.
The move by Trump brought disappointment to the large constituency of evangelical Christians who support Israel.
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, immediately released a statemet: “CWA’s members are very disappointed that the president chose to sign the waiver in direct contradiction to his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. In 1967, Arab armies declared war on Israel. Until that time, Jordan had occupied east Jerusalem for 20 years, destroyed most synagogues, and did not allow religious freedom. Israel won the 1967 war and liberated east Jerusalem, thus re-uniting their ancient, 3,000-year-old capital. Under the Israelis, Muslims, Christians, and Jews enjoy religious freedom.”
She pointed out: “Israel is the only country in the world that does not have the U.S. Embassy in its own designated capital. It’s an unjust anomaly. We believe it is a mistake to tie the U.S. Embassy move to any possible peace agreement, since Palestinians remain unwilling to negotiate directly with Israel.”
Nance said that both U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, said in her presence the move is 50 years overdue.
She pointed out that 81 percent of evangelicals voted for President Trump, and the vast majority also support the Jerusalem Embassy Act.
“In December we will once again ask the president to keep his word when this waiver expires,” she said.
Mat Staver, chief counsel of Liberty Counsel, had encouraged Trump to not sign the waiver.
Just before the waiver signing, he explained: “Congress signed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1999. Eighteen years waiting is more than enough. It is beyond time for the United States to move the Embassy to Jerusalem. To not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel contradicts the Bible, history, present-day reality, and is anti-Semitic.”
Eugene Kontorovich wrote at the Volokh Conspiracy blog that while the decision to sign a waiver at this point certainly is a disappointment for Trump supporters, “it will not be the end of the show.”
“He will have seven more waivers ahead, with mounting pressure as his term progresses. Under Obama, speculation focused on what actions he would take or allow against Israel (and even these waited until very late in his second term).”
He explained the waiver “does not waive the obligation to move the embassy.”
“That policy has been fully adopted by Congress in the Act (sec. 3(a)(3)) and is not waiveable. Of course, Congress cannot simply order the president to implement such a move, especially given his core constitutional power over diplomatic relations.”
WND reported last month when Christian leaders representing 60 million members of the faith across America sent the president a letter asking him to move the embassy.
The non-profit Liberty Counsel reports the letter called for the move – which was directed by Congress in 1995 – to be made “at long last.”
The letter, signed by about five dozen Christian leaders, stated, “The time has come, at long last, to uphold American law by moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel’s eternal indivisible capital city of Jerusalem.”
“The Republican National Convention’s official 2016 platform rightly stated, ‘We recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and call for the American embassy to be moved there in fulfillment of U.S. law. Moreover, we were honored and grateful that you pledged to specifically uphold this policy in response to a request from the American Christian Leaders for Israel coalition during your campaign. Many of our constituents cast their vote for you due to this commitment,'” the letter said.