Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed Obama’s decision to reopen the U.S. embassy in Cuba, suggesting that it was a “slap in the face” to Israel.
The administration announced on Wednesday
that it has told lawmakers that a deal has been reached
to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba and reopen embassies.
Cruz, who is running for president, called
Obama’s announcement “unacceptable and a slap in the face of a close ally that the United States will have an embassy in Havana before one in Jerusalem.”
The United States currently has an embassy in Tel Aviv, but Cruz has repeatedly called for the embassy to be moved to Jerusalem.
The Texas Republican, as well as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have backed legislation that would scrap a national security waiver that allows the administration to bypass a 1995 law to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem.
Rubio said separately on Wednesday that he would oppose the confirmation of an ambassador to Cuba until the Obama administration tackles a handful of issues including U.S. fugitives living in Cuba and travel restrictions on U.S. diplomats.
Cruz added in a statement that he will place a hold, effectively blocking, any nominee unless Obama “can demonstrate that he has made some progress in alleviating the misery” of the Cuban people.
Obama’s move has split Republicans, with Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) suggesting that Wednesday’s announcement was a step in the right direction.
Democrats largely backed Obama’s decision, with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, saying that “we are moving in a more hopeful direction.”
But Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a leading critic of Obama’s Cuba policy, said that the decision sends a message that “democracy and human rights take a back seat to a legacy initiative.”