Democratic congressman and Texas Senate hopeful Beto O'Rourke called the move of the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem "provocative" on Sunday, saying it provided "incentives and incitement to violence."
The U.S. officially opened the new embassy in Jerusalem in May following President Donald Trump's decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. A young Muslim woman at O'Rourke's town hall in Flower Mound brought up the move, which was supported by the man O'Rourke is trying to unseat, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas).
The woman blasted Cruz for his support of relocating the embassy and asked O'Rourke what he would to do to change the "crisis of human consciousness and arguably one of the worst humanitarian disasters our world faces today."
"This policy on the part of the president, this decision he made to move the embassy, was absolutely, unnecessarily provocative," O'Rourke said.
.@BetoORourke this afternoon on U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem, which @TedCruz campaign tried to nail him down on at the time: "absolutely unnecessarily provocative," part of "incentives and incitements to violence" (34:30) https://t.co/H2uDSjpJxi #txsen
— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) June 25, 2018
O'Rourke added anyone who knew anything about the Middle East and the status of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations "knew that there were going to be those who would suffer as a result, as they predictably have."
The same day as the embassy move, the Israeli military killed 58 Palestinians, many of them members of the terror group Hamas, during violent protests along the Gaza-Israel border. Deputy Hamas chief Khalil al-Hayya said the demonstrations' purpose was to "powerfully confront the embassy deal" and to "draw the map of return in blood," according to the New York Times.
O'Rourke championed the two-state solution and said the U.S. had an opportunity as a friend to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, pointing to the economic aid it provides both. He said the U.S. could help Israel by urging it to discontinue settlements in the West Bank and assist the PA in negotiating in good faith and recognizing Israel's right to exist.
"Ultimately, it's going to be up to those two powers to produce the peace, but we can do a better job and we can certainly stop providing incentives and incitement to violence, which I think that move did," O'Rourke said.
Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December drew both strong praise and criticism. That promise had been made by previous presidents and the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel was part of the last four Democratic Party platforms.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act passed easily in the U.S. Congress in 1995 and called for the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the embassy there. However, the law included a provision allowing the president to issue a waiver to delay the embassy move six months at a time, and Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama did so on every occasion, citing security concerns.