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House GOP Pushes Trump To Move Embassy to Jerusalem

Regional leaders say the ‘disastrous’ move would sink the peace process.

Republican US presidential hopeful Donald Trump addresses the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference at the Verizon Center March 21, 2016 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican US presidential hopeful Donald Trump addresses the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference at the Verizon Center March 21, 2016 in Washington, DC. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Scores of House Republicans are ramping up pressure on President-elect Donald Trump to fulfil his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem despite a stern warning from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the move would have a “disastrous impact on the peace process.”

In the draft letter obtained by Foreign Policy, Republicans urge Trump to “take swift action to relocate our embassy to Jerusalem as soon as you take office.” In an email to colleagues in the House, an aide to Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Monday urged lawmakers to sign the letter, joining 62 other signatures, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Lee Zeldin of New York, Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Mark Meadows of North Carolina.

“Moving the embassy will strengthen the unique alliance between Israel and the United States and send a clear message to the world that we support Israel in recognizing Jerusalem as its eternal capital,” said lawmakers in the unsent letter dated “January XX, 2017.”

Israel, with an assist from the powerful lobbying outfit AIPAC, has tried and failed to convince previous presidents to move the embassy, an act bitterly opposed by Palestinians and Muslims throughout the region given the contested status of the city.

Jerusalem is central to the national narratives of the Israelis and Palestinians and hosts holy sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians. Any peace agreement to end the decades-old dispute will require addressing the conflicting claims. The United States and a majority of U.N. member states do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the city’s fate remains one of the most intractable issues of the conflict. The U.S. Embassy is currently in Israel’s commercial hub, Tel Aviv.

The GOP push comes a day after Abbas drafted a letter to Trump warning that the move would jeopardize the “two-state solution” and the “stability and security of the entire region,” according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa. Last week, a government spokesman for Jordan, an important U.S. ally, said the move would be “catastrophic.” Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday the decision would prompt “an absolute explosion in the region.”

Trump promised to relocate the embassy during a speech at AIPAC’s annual conference last May and picked David Friedman, a right-wing bankruptcy lawyer who supports the move, as his prospective ambassador to Israel.

On Monday, Trump appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner senior White House adviser. Kushner is a director of a family foundation that made charitable donations to West Bank settlements, outposts that every U.S. administration since 1967 has called illegitimate. The settlements make establishing a Palestinian state more difficult, U.S. officials said.

Trump has said previously that he may task his son with brokering a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.

During the GOP primary, Trump took criticism from his conservative rivals after saying he wants to be viewed as a “neutral” intermediary between the Israelis and Palestinians, a view GOP Sen. Marco Rubio rejected as siding with “terrorists.”

Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway said last month that moving the embassy to the contested city is a “very big priority” for the president.

The House Republican letter also criticizes the Obama administration’s decision last month to abstain from a U.N. Security Council vote condemning Israel’s expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Republicans and several Democrats called on the U.S. to veto the measure. “The resolution invites renewed diplomatic hostility and economic warfare against Israel,” the letter states.

Every other country in the 15-member security body voted in support of the resolution.

The full letter on the embassy relocation is here.

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