Lawmaker Interviews

WATCH: House members say Jerusalem announcement shakes up stagnant peace process

Key lawmakers believe President Trump’s recent announcement the U.S. will move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and recognize the city as Israel’s capital will advance peace talks.
Arab leaders have suggested that the U.S. recognizing of Jerusalem as Israel’s “political capital” undermines ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a two-state solution with the goal of Middle East peace. But lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill said the decades-long talks need a shake up. 
“I think moving the embassy in no way sets the peace process back. Look, the embassy has been in Tel Aviv and we’ve tried peace for how many years now, and we didn’t get it, so it’s not as if that’s a magic bullet,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview with The Hill. He called the matter “totally irrelevant in terms of whether we get peace.”  
GOP Rep. Scott Taylor (Va.) acknowledged that the announcement creates a “wrinkle” in White House adviser Jared Kushner’s push for what Trump has called “the ultimate deal” in the Middle East. But he added that “it also creates an opportunity.” 
“It does shake up the peace process a little bit but what’s been happening for the past 20 to 30 years is stagnant and it’s not going anywhere,” Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, told The Hill. 
Engel contends that, in private, leaders of “some Arab countries” are “not unhappy because they understand that, in order to achieve peace in the Middle East, they have to work with Israel as their partner not as their adversary.” 
The veteran lawmaker said Israeli government officials and top officials representing some Arab governments “will all say that Iran is the biggest danger to peace in the Middle East because of its support for terrorism and its aggressiveness against all these countries.” 
Regardless, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) says that in “every iteration” of would-be settlement involving a two-state solution, Jerusalem was “always a part of Israel … and so if it was a bargaining chip it was one that was pretty open.” 
Virginia Republican Rep. Dave Brat sighed in frustration at the lack of progress, calling on all of the negotiators to “just work together, join the modern world and get along.”  
Watch the video above to hear the lawmakers in their own words. 

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