President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel drew support from one of the top Democratic foreign policy leaders in Congress.
“This decision is long overdue and helps correct a decades-long indignity,” New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said Wednesday.
Engel is one of the more hawkish Democrats in Congress, most notably having challenged former President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. But Engel is hardly Republican-lite. He voted Wednesday in support of an effort to proceed with making the case to impeach Trump, joining 57 other House Democrats who lost a procedural vote that tabled the resolution.
“I support the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and to move the U.S. embassy there,” the New York Democrat said. “It recognizes where Israel’s government — the parliament and the prime minister — is based, as well as the ancient and unbreakable connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem.”
His statement of praise contributed a split among Democrats on Capitol Hill over whether Trump made the right decision or needlessly-undermined the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., endorsed the move, while Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., worried it would lead to a new outbreak of terrorism. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also warned against the move
“The future of Jerusalem is an issue that should be decided by Israel and the Palestinians, not unilaterally by the United States,” she wrote to Trump last week. “Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — or relocating our embassy to Jerusalem — will spark violence and embolden extremists on both sides of this debate.”
That position was echoed by European allies, who are generally more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
“We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday. “We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it.”
Engel also acknowledged the worries about terrorism but implicitly rejected the suggestion Trump’s announcement would bar the two sides from negotiating a final deal.
“I look forward to a plan to ensure the safety and security of our embassy personnel,” he said. “I urge parties in the region to be calm and work toward a sustainable two-state solution that can bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians.”