Blinken affirms plan to keep US embassy in Jerusalem

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President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the State Department committed on Tuesday to keeping the U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, maintaining one of President Trump’s key foreign policy decisions.

Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of State, confirmed during his Senate confirmation hearing that the incoming administration has no intention of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv, and affirmed that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“Do you agree that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and do you commit that the United States will keep our embassy in Jerusalem?” asked Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“Yes and yes,” Blinken answered.

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.

Trump and his allies in the administration and Congress have celebrated the moving of the U.S. embassy as a recognition of the Trump administration’s stalwart support of Israel. Opponents of the move and the Trump administration’s policies towards Israel, on the other hand, have argued that the U.S. embassy move favored Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the base of conservative and right-wing Israel supporters while alienating and rejecting legitimate claims by the Palestinians.

The international community has withheld recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital absent a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

Blinken on Tuesday said the Biden administration is not optimistic about near-term efforts to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, but called for both sides to refrain from unilateral actions that would make it harder to eventually return to the negotiating table.

He instead called for “confidence building measures” that would “create an environment in which we might once again be able to help advance a solution to the Israel and Palestinian relationship.”

Tags Antony Blinken Benjamin Netanyahu Donald Trump Israel Jerusalem Joe Biden Ted Cruz Tel Aviv

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