Jeb Bush said Saturday that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and called for the United States to move its embassy to there from Tel Aviv.
“I support that, absolutely,” the former Florida governor said, responding to a question about whether the city should be Israel’s capital “forever.”
“I also support moving the embassy to Jerusalem as well – our embassy. Not just as a symbol but a show of solidarity,” he continued, speaking to reporters in Nashville before the Tennessee GOP’s Statesmen’s Dinner.
Israelis consider Jerusalem the capital of their country, but Palestinians also lay claim to the city as the capital of a prospective independent state.
Bush’s answer falls in line with the Republican platform and Mitt Romney’s position during the 2012 presidential race. And while previous presidents, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have vowed that they would move the embassy to Jerusalem, the embassy remains in Tel Aviv, as do most other countries’ embassies.
A U.S. law passed in 1995 designates Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and stipulates the American embassy should move to the city from Tel Aviv. However, the past three presidents, including Barack Obama, have signed waivers suspending the law, citing security and diplomatic concerns.
“Clearly, the number one ally we have in the Middle East is Israel,” Bush said. “And we should show our support consistently because if not us, who?”
He reiterated his support for the Patriot Act on the eve of what’s expected to be a showdown on the Senate floor between opponents and supports during a rare gathering on Sunday. Bush argued that Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is “wrong” in his push to sunset key provisions of the law.
“I hope that the Patriot Act is renewed and I hope that the metadata, which is not a violation of civil liberties, is part of that effort to keep us safe because I know what will happen if there’s an attack on our country or a terrorist attack from inside our country,” Bush told reporters. “A lot of people are going to say, ‘Where were you? Where were you?’”
In his speech at the dinner, Bush repeated his argument that Obama has a foreign policy of “leading from behind” and doesn’t believe that America’s power in the world is a “force for good.” That approach has led to a less stable world, he added, pointing to the growth of ISIS and the “Chinese building an artificial island 600 miles off their shore.”
“No one believes that America is there over the long haul, and the net result is they’re making decisions that are quite damning,” he said, speaking more broadly.
Bush got big applause when he concluded his remarks emphasizing his push for a more diverse Republican Party.
“The next Republican that will win will campaign in the Latino community, will campaign amongst Asian-Americans, will campaign in the black churches, will campaign in college campuses,” he said.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.