Members of the Florida congressional delegation from both sides of the aisle applauded President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump fulfilled his campaign pledge to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in a speech on Wednesday though he did not offer a timetable for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv.
From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been pushing Trump on the matter. Back in March, Rubio teamed up with former presidential primary rivals U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, to officially unveil a resolution urging the U.S. government to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The three former presidential candidates were joined by U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., in introducing the resolution.
Rubio, Cruz and Heller worked on this issue earlier in the year when they brought out the “Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act" which would have moved the embassy.
On Wednesday, Rubio cheered Trump’s decision.
"I commend President Trump for following U.S. law and recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel,” Rubio said. “The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which Congress passed during the Clinton administration, requires the United States not only to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but also to eventually move the American embassy to Jerusalem.
“Today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction,” Rubio added. “Unequivocal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be complete when the U.S. embassy is officially relocated there.”
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., has also been active on the issue. Last month, DeSantis, a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2018 and the chairman of the U.S. House National Security Subcommittee, sent a letter to Trump on the matter. Twelve fellow representatives--including Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Dennis Ross--signed off on the letter.
DeSantis has been increasingly active on this front in recent months. Earlier in November, DeSantis held a subcommittee meeting and insisted moving the embassy would not pose a security threat and he met with members of the Knesset to talked about American-Israeli relations. At the start of the year, DeSantis rounded up more than 100 fellow members of Congress to send a letter Trump on the matter. DeSantis’ effort won the support of some of the members of the Florida delegation including U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who chairs the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee. Other members of the Florida delegation who signed the letter were Republican U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Carlos Curbelo, Mast and Ted Yoho. In March, DeSantis visited Israel where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leading Israeli officials. During his tour, DeSantis scouted out four sites in Jerusalem where the embassy could be relocated and stopped by the current embassy in Tel Aviv. Back in May, DeSantis, one of the founders of the Israel Victory Caucus in Congress, led the charge to let American citizens born in Jerusalem designate Israel as their birthplace on passports and other documents. DeSantis rounded up more than 50 members of Congress to send a letter to U.S. Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, urging the State Department to let citizens born in Jerusalem say there were born in Israel. With the U.S. having recognized Jerusalem as a divided city, the State Department has not allowed Jerusalem born citizens to claim Israel as their birthplace. Jerusalem-born American Menachem Zivotofsky took this all the way to U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 but the Court ruled in 2015 that he could not list Israel as his birthplace in a 6-3 ruling as Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samiel Alito and the late Antonin Scalia dissented.
“Last December, the Obama administration worked furiously to engineer a U.N. resolution so anti-Israel that it characterized the Western Wall as ‘occupied’ territory,” DeSantis said on Wednesday. “This December, President Trump is doing what his recent predecessors have promised but failed to deliver: formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, to be followed by relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Fifty years after the reunification of Jerusalem, the ancient and holy city stands as one of the jewels of the world, and Israel’s stewardship of the holy sites (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) since being liberated from Jordanian occupation has been tremendous. With President Trump’s announcement, the U.S. is finally following through with what Congress enacted in the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.”
Ros-Lehtinen paired up with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the ranking Democrat on the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, to issue a joint statement supporting Trump’s decision.
“The president’s decision today is a recognition of existing U.S. law that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the U.S. embassy should ultimately be located in the capital,” Ros-Lehtinen and Deutch said. “There is no debate that the Jewish people have a deep-rooted religious, cultural and historic tie to Jerusalem, and today’s decision reaffirms that connection. The fact is that Jerusalem – an ancient and holy city to all three monotheistic faiths – will remain the capital of the Jewish state in any iteration of a negotiated two-state solution. Today’s decision does not preclude our shared goal of two states for two peoples to be negotiated between the parties themselves. Now is the time for urgent progress towards the president’s stated objective of achieving a real and lasting peace.”
Yoho, who sits on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, also backed Trump’s decision.
“I applaud the administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the decision to move our embassy to that city," Yoho said. “Israel is a thriving democracy in the Middle East, a strong supporter of freedom, and one of our closest allies in the region. As a beacon of democracy and a sovereign nation, they should have the right to determine the location of their seat of government.”
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats in the Florida delegation also backed the decision.
“My longstanding view is that Jerusalem is and will remain the undivided capital of Israel, and it should remain a city accessible to people of all faiths,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. “I strongly believe that we must continue to work toward a two state solution that achieves two states for two peoples. We must work toward a day where the entire world recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that can be achieved through final status negotiations. I remain as committed as ever to safeguarding Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, at peace with its neighbors, with Jerusalem as its undisputed capital.”
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, also supported Trump on the matter.
“The president’s announcement today is consistent with current U.S. law and reaffirms what we already know: Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the state of Israel,” Frankel said. “The U.S. must recommit to our long-standing goal of a negotiated solution that leads to two states for two people. Only direct negotiations between the parties will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.”