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House Republicans Urge Biden to Keep Embassy in Jerusalem

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• February 4, 2021 3:20 pm

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More than 90 House Republicans urged the Biden administration in a letter Wednesday to keep Israel's U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

In the letter, which was addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the lawmakers promised opposition to any attempts to move the embassy back to Tel Aviv. The Trump administration moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in 2018, a move the lawmakers described as "long overdue."

"Over the [last] two decades, the option of moving the embassy would come before the president every six months, and each time it would be delayed until the Trump administration finally ended the stalling," the letter reads. "By continuing to honor our commitment to keep the embassy in Israel's ‘eternal capital,' we ensure continued goodwill as our two nations confront the challenges of the future."

Congress granted the president the authority to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1995, although the U.S. embassy remained in Tel Aviv until the Trump administration. Some foreign policy analysts have argued the embassy move paved the way for the historic Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and two prominent Gulf countries—Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Although President Joe Biden says he will not overturn the decision, the president has said the 2018 move was "short-sighted and frivolous." While on the campaign trail, Biden also said he would open a U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem to work with the Palestinian Authority.

Several Biden foreign policy advisers spoke out against the embassy move at the time. Colin Kahl, the nominee for undersecretary of policy at the Pentagon, said the Trump administration may have moved the embassy to please Russian president Vladimir Putin. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines signed a letter last year saying that Donald Trump had "upended" decades of American foreign policy with his Israel peace plan.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) blasted Kahl's nomination as a sign that Biden will return to a "disastrous" posture in the Middle East. 

"During the Obama Administration, we saw a disastrous foreign policy that abandoned our alliesnamely Israeland emboldened our enemies, especially Iran," Cheney said. "Joe Biden now appears to be following the same course. Filling [Biden's] administration with individuals who will follow this failed strategy will only weaken our national security interests, encourage malign activity from our adversaries, and make our country less safe."