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Israeli ambassador endorses moving US embassy
01:26 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Bill co-sponsored by Dean Heller, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz

Trump supports the plan, which could be an obstacle to "two-state" solution

CNN  — 

Senate Republicans introduced a bill Tuesday to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and move the United States embassy to Jerusalem.

The controversial plan, which President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly voiced support for on the campaign trail, is almost certain to further inflame tensions between Palestinians and Israelis.

The bill was introduced on the first day of the new US Congress by Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, along with Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas – two senators who lost out to Trump in the primary race for the Republican nomination last year.

“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, and that’s where America’s embassy belongs,” Rubio said in a joint statement announcing the bill.

“It’s time for Congress and the President-elect to eliminate the loophole that has allowed presidents in both parties to ignore US law and delay our embassy’s rightful relocation to Jerusalem for over two decades.”

Cruz added: “Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s vendetta against the Jewish state has been so vicious that to even utter this simple truth – let alone the reality that Jerusalem is the appropriate venue for the American embassy in Israel – is shocking in some circles.”

The bill, called the “Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act,” requires the US to act on a 1995 proposal calling on the US to relocate the diplomatic mission from Tel Aviv.

Since the 1995 bill’s passage, every president – both Republican and Democrat – has waived the requirement of the move, citing national security considerations.

The Jerusalem question

Jerusalem has always been among the most difficult questions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even after the world recognized the State of Israel in 1948, it left the final status of Jerusalem – home to some of the most sacred sites in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – open to future negotiations.

Israelis see Jerusalem as their united capital. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Trump has said he’d like to try making peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but he’s also vowed to relocate the embassy and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital – moves Palestinian leaders have denounced as the death of the “two-state” solution.

Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel – David Friedman, a New York lawyer and Orthodox Jew – is another signal the President-elect is willing to upend decades of US policy in the Middle East.

Friedman, known for his hardline views, has called the effort to find a two-state solution an “illusion” and said he welcomed moving the embassy.

Friedman has also argued that Israeli settlement construction in Palestinian areas shouldn’t be illegal – a position that puts him at odds with the outgoing Obama administration and much of the international community.

Tensions over settlements

The US and most other nations consider Israel’s construction of new housing tracts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – lands Palestinians see as part of their future state – as an obstacle to the hopes of a “two-state” solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

For years the US has pleaded unsuccessfully with Israel to stop building new settlements. But in December, relations between the two countries sunk to a new low after the US allowed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning settlement construction to be adopted.

The resolution – which passed because the US, which holds veto power, abstained from voting – says the construction of settlements “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

The US abstention was the culmination of eight years of simmering animosity between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It prompted furious accusations by Israel that the US had abandoned its closest ally.

In a series of tweets condemning the resolution, incoming president Trump signaled he would be turning the page to a new, friendlier chapter of US-Israeli relations once he took office.

“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” Trump said on Twitter. “They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but not anymore.”

He added: “Stay strong Israel, January 20 is fast approaching!”

CNN’s Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.