The US has sent a message to the world and the Middle East in particular that “there’s a new sheriff” in town, Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters in Jerusalem on Monday.
“When [US President] Donald Trump says something, he means it,” he told reporters at a news conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Both Graham and Senator Ted Cruz said the embassy opening was a signal that the US era of “appeasement” was over and that America will stand strong in defense of its friends and against its enemies.“By recognizing Jerusalem as the capital during the campaign, it is a signal to everyone, including the North Koreans, that there is a new sheriff in town,” Graham said.The left-wing group Peace Now said the move was a “political stunt that fulfills a campaign promise for Donald Trump at the cost of future reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, both of whom must have their narratives recognized and claims to Jerusalem addressed if we are ever to see a peace accord.”But the Republican senators said it was a move that supported peace and did not negate the option of a peace deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.“Whatever chance there may be for peace, that chance will be heightened when we move the embassy,” Cruz said.For local political reasons, Arab allies in the region have to denounce this move, he added.But secretly, the Egyptians and the Saudis “will be deeply relieved,” Cruz said, because it proves to them that the US and Trump in particular has the courage to take a strong stance on significant issues in the Middle East, including Iran.“By moving the embassy, America makes clear that we stand by our friends and that we are willing to stand up to our enemies,” he said.“Under Donald Trump we are going to do the things we say we promised to do,” Graham said.When Trump pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal because it runs counter to US interests, it also means he is not going to enter into another poor agreement, he said.Any US-brokered peace deal would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Graham said.“Since 1995 it has been the policy of the US to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he said.“I cannot imagine a circumstance where a two-state solution will exist between Israelis and Palestinians without Jerusalem being the capital of Israel,” Graham said.To the Palestinians, he said, “I recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel without any animosity.”Graham said that did not preclude a two-state resolution to the conflict, including one that sets east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.Cruz added: “The impediment to peace is Palestinian leadership that refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State and continues to embrace terrorism.”Both senators spoke of the historical connection Judaism has to Jerusalem as well as the significance of the current reality in which Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government.“If you have a problem with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, take it up with God,” Graham said.
Lindsay Graham (R-SC) addresses the embassy move to Jerusalem, May 14th 2018. (Tovah Lazaroff)