WASHINGTON – Two leading Democratic lawmakers from New York criticized US President Donald Trump this week for deferring on his campaign promise to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, questioning silence from their colleagues on both sides of the aisle.Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, and Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, both issued condemnatory statements after the White House temporarily waived a congressional requirement compelling the embassy move.Presidents of both parties have issued waivers on the Jerusalem Embassy Act twice a year since 1998 – but Republicans only speak up and criticize the president when the delay is issued by a Democratic White House, Schumer charged in a statement.
“As someone who believes that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel, I am deeply disappointed in President Trump’s decision,” Schumer said, characterizing himself as consistent on the matter. “Will those who criticized president Obama for not moving the embassy make their voices just as loud and just as strong when it comes to President Trump’s failure to move the embassy?” Last week, Schumer introduced a non-binding Senate resolution that celebrates 50 years of Israeli sovereignty in the ancient city, corresponding with a Capitol Hill event marking Jerusalem Day on June 6.The resolution reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act, and twice endorses a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Engel, who has for several years campaigned for a Jerusalem embassy – said it was one of the few issues on which he and Trump had agreed throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.“The one campaign promise I hoped President Trump would keep was to move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But like much of what he said during the campaign, that, too, was a lot of bluster and is now another example of the president sending mixed and confusing signals to our friends around the world,” said Engel.“It just doesn’t make sense that our embassy in a closely allied country isn’t in the same city as the government with which we need to work so closely,” he added.Yet, Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike remained largely silent on the matter, focusing on the other news of the day: Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord. Several Democrats from New York, including Reps. Nita Lowey, Grace Meng, Jerry Nadler and Kathleen Rice, declined to comment on the decision in press releases or on social media.Following in the footsteps of past presidents, Trump came to the conclusion that moving the embassy outside the context of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians might exacerbate the conflict, White House officials said.“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,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement. “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.“As he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when,” Spicer added.
Trump delays moving US embassy to Jerusalem (credit: REUTERS)