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GOP senator urges Biden to confirm US will keep embassy in Jerusalem

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) on Saturday wrote to President Biden urging him to publicly confirm that he will keep the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem after the Senate overwhelmingly signaled support for the location last week.

"This is not a difficult question and should not require any deliberation," Hagerty wrote in the letter, which was obtained first by The Hill.

The Senate, in an overnight voting session on Friday, passed a non-binding amendment introduced by Hagerty and Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBiden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike Sanders expresses 'serious concerns' with Biden's defense increase Senate GOP slams Biden defense budget MORE (R-Okla.) by a vote of 97-3 in support of maintaining the embassy in Jerusalem. The embassy was relocated there during the Trump administration from Tel Aviv after previous presidents had punted on the move.

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Asked Friday afternoon about whether the Biden administration supports keeping the embassy there, press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Florida newspaper blasts DeSantis's ban on COVID-19 passports: 'Makes no sense' Libertarian writer Robby Soave details concerns with 'vaccine passports' MORE said she had not spoken with the national security team but would follow up on the matter.

"In order to correct the discrepancy that unfortunately now exists between our two branches of government and send an unequivocal message to our allies in Israel, I urge you to confirm—immediately and publicly—that your Administration will continue to implement U.S. law and maintain the American Embassy’s location in Jerusalem," Hagerty wrote.

The first-term senator, who previously served as ambassador to Japan, also urged Biden to build on the Abraham Accords, a series of agreements the Trump administration brokered to normalize relations between a handful of Middle Eastern countries.

A White House official said the U.S. position is that its embassy will remain in Jerusalem, which the administration recognizes as Israel's capital. The ultimate status of Jerusalem will need to be resolved through direct negotiations, the official added. 

While Psaki did not provide a direct answer on Friday and Biden has not addressed the matter of the embassy, Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Ukraine says it will not back down to Russian pressure Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge MORE previously signaled his support for keeping it in Jerusalem during his confirmation hearing. 

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"Do you agree that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and do you commit that the United States will keep our embassy in Jerusalem?" Senator Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' GOP lawmakers block Biden assistance to Palestinians Cruz on Boehner: 'I wear with pride his drunken, bloviated scorn' MORE (R-Texas) asked during the hearing last month.

"Yes and yes," Blinken responded.

Trump in May 2018 moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, fulfilling a campaign promise and following through on a U.S. policy decision that was routinely delayed since 1995 to relocate the embassy from the beachfront city to the Holy City.

Holding back on moving the embassy was viewed as key leverage by the U.S. to push for Israelis and Palestinians to engage on negotiations to establish a Palestinian state, with their own capital in east Jerusalem.

Updated at 9:06 p.m.