Congressional panel considers Jerusalem embassy move


WASHINGTON (JTA) — A congressional panel heard testimony on whether the United States should move its Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem.

The hearing Wednesday by the national security subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee was not attached to any bill. Since 1995, Congress has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and mandated the move there.

Presidents since then have exercised a national security waiver, which lasts six months. President Donald Trump exercised the waiver in June, although he had campaigned on moving the embassy from Tel Aviv.

The hearing appeared essentially performative and not aimed at advancing any legislation. It was geared to make the case that Trump should announce a move before Dec. 1, the next deadline to waive the 1995 law.

Most of the witnesses and lawmakers favored the move, including the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. Witnesses who backed the move included John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations; Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America; and Eugene Kontorovich, a professor of international law at Northwestern University.

Opponents to moving the embassy say it would impinge on Palestinian claims to a capital in the city’s eastern sector and could spark violent protests worldwide by Muslims.

Those concerns were expressed by Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Michael Koplow, the policy director for the Israel Policy Forum, who was the fifth witness.

The comity was such that Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the Republican Party’s hyperconservative Freedom Caucus, called Koplow the “skunk at the party” for explaining why an embassy move could potentially trigger turmoil.

Meadows asked Bolton whether he thought Trump’s failure to move the embassy would offend the U.S. Jewish community. Bolton laughed and said that he could not answer on behalf of the Jews, but said “as a Lutheran, I would be offended.” Meadows laughed and said that he, too, as an evangelical, would be offended.

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