Politics

For some South Florida Democrats in Congress, Trump is right on Jerusalem

In this July 25, 2017, file photo, Jerusalem’s Old City is seen through a door with the shape of a star of David.
In this July 25, 2017, file photo, Jerusalem’s Old City is seen through a door with the shape of a star of David. AP

South Florida Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch rarely agree with President Donald Trump, but the pair supported his decision on Wednesday to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital along with moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

“My longstanding view is that Jerusalem is and will remain the undivided capital of Israel, and it should remain a city accessible to people of all faiths,” Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, said in a statement. “We must work toward a day where the entire world recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that can be achieved through final status negotiations. I remain as committed as ever to safeguarding Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, at peace with its neighbors, with Jerusalem as its undisputed capital.”

Deutch, D-Boca Raton, issued a joint statement supporting the move with Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The two are the highest ranking members on the House Foreign Affairs Middle East subcommittee.

“There is no debate that the Jewish people have a deep-rooted religious, cultural and historic tie to Jerusalem, and today’s decision reaffirms that connection,” Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen said.

Deutch and Wasserman Schultz represent districts with large Jewish populations and are seen as supporters of Israel in Congress.

South Florida Republicans uniformly praised Trump’s decision on Wednesday, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo.

“I commend President Trump for following U.S. law and recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel,” Rubio said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction. Unequivocal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be complete when the U.S. embassy is officially relocated there.”

But some of Trump’s top Cabinet officials reportedly opposed the decision, arguing that the move to recognize Jerusalem would needlessly inflame tensions between Israel and Palestinians and potentially put people in danger.

Defense Secretary James Mattis avoided answering when asked whether Trump’s decision is in the interest of U.S. national security.

“I made my recommendation, and I’ll just leave it at that,” Mattis said.

Jacob Solomon, the president and CEO of the Greater Miami Jewish Foundation, praised Trump’s decision.

“I think there’s universal consensus that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and this is just kind of aligning the label with reality,” Solomon said. “I am talking to people all the time who continue to support a two-state solution and yet think this is the right thing to do.”

Dr. Abdul Hamid Samra, imam and religious director for the Islamic Center of Greater Miami, disagrees with recognizing Jerusalem as the capital and moving the embassy as a stand-alone measure and not part of a larger peace deal.

“I don’t think this is the right time to do it,” Hamid Samra said. “If it’s just part of the peace deal, it’s OK, but on its own it’s not OK.”

Shabbir Motorwala, with the Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations, said Trump’s decision could give fuel to Islamic State militants and potentially make it harder for local Jewish and Muslim organizations to work together, though he hopes that ultimately isn’t the case.

“It does affect a little bit of our bridge-building among the local communities,” Motorwala said. “Is it worth building bridges if people are suffering overseas?”

At least one South Florida lawmaker opposed the decision. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fort Lauderdale, said officially recognizing Jerusalem “puts the security of American embassies and consulates throughout the Arab world at risk.”

“In the context of peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the sensitivity of the status of Jerusalem cannot be overstated,” Hastings said. “The ramifications of this decision could be profound, and I fear that the president made his decision based on political expediency rather than sound foreign policy.”

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alex Daugherty: 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty

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