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Buttigieg wouldn't reverse US embassy move to Jerusalem: 'What's done is done'

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says if he won he wouldn't reverse President Trump's controversial decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem.

"I think what's done is done," Buttigieg told "Axios on HBO" in a clip shared Sunday. "We need a big picture strategy on the Middle East, I don't know that we'd gain much by moving it to Tel Aviv."

Trump in late 2017 made the decision to recognize the ancient holy city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and announced plans to relocate the U.S. embassy there. The move drew fire from critics who said it would further strain relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and increase the chances of a potential wide-scale conflict in the Middle East.

Despite saying he wouldn't reverse Trump's actions, Buttigieg said that "doesn't mean he did the right thing."

"Here's the problem with what he did," Buttigieg said. "If you're going to make a concession like that...you don't do that without getting some kind of concession."

"Instead, we've seen the Israeli government continue to act in ways that are detrimental to peace, and therefore I believe detrimental to U.S. interests," he added.  

Similarly, the 2020 hopeful criticized Trump's recognition of Golan Heights, which he said has to do with "legitimate security interest."

"We were doing something that could've been part of a negotiated package and instead we just gave it away," he said. "Worse, we gave it away probably for the specific purpose of having an impact in Israeli domestic politics which should be the last reason that we would be conducting U.S. policy, it should be designed around American values, American interests and American international relationships."

In terms of honoring the right of return of Palestinian refugees, Buttigieg said that "concept can be honored in the context of negotiated peace," and not something as a candidate he would declare as a pre-condition for peace.

"I'm concerned though we're walking away from the possibility of peace," Buttigieg added.

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