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Trump decision to move Israel embassy supported by some South Florida critics

By Anthony Man, For Sun Sentinel , On 07 December 2017, Read Original
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President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday that the U.S. embassy to Israel ultimately would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem produced some unusual unity in South Florida — with words of support from some of Trump’s most vocal critics.

The issue of the location of the U.S. embassy in Israel resonates for many in South Florida, which has a large Jewish population for whom Israel is salient.

During the presidential campaign last year, Ivanka Trump campaigned on her father’s behalf in the Jewish community in South Florida. Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism before she married Jared Kushner.

At the Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside, she said he would keep his promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “100 percent. 100 percent. Jerusalem is the eternal capital, so 100 percent.”

Until Trump, that was a standard promise by presidential candidates, none of whom ended up going through with the pledge once they were elected.

Support for the decision was voiced by outspoken Trump critics U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, a Democrat who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami-Dade Republican.

That isn’t view isn’t universally reflected by their constituents, said Ira Sheskin, professor of geography at the University of Miami and expert on Jewish demographics.

“There’s still well over half a million Jews here [in South Florida], many of whom feel strongly about Israel. But I would also venture to say that most people, including me, have very mixed feelings about this.”

He said the reaction from the region’s Democratic and Republican elected officials is easy to understand. “That’s what politicians do. For the same reason that every presidential candidate supported doing this,” he said. “They know they’re probably going to get more votes the next time around if they say this is the right decision than if they say this is the wrong decision.”

Anas Amireh, of Coral Springs, chairman of the Florida chapter of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, said Trump’s decision “really is hurtful for so many Palestinians,” he said.

Amireh said more than 30,000 Palestinian-Americans live in South Florida. “Everybody is so frustrated.”

A long-term settlement in the region is now far more complicated, Amireh said. “It further complicates it,” he said, adding he hopes that the Trump policy may change — far in the future. “Unfortunately, it’s going to be a long time, another five, 10, 15 years. Eventually things will change.”

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-West Delray, agreed with many of his colleagues’ assessment that “Jerusalem is and should remain the undivided capital of Israel.”

But Hastings blistered Trump’s approach to the issue.

“The manner in which the Trump Administration has announced its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is of great concern,” Hastings said in a statement. “In the context of peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the sensitivity of the status of Jerusalem cannot be overstated. 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.”

Rabbi Mark Winer of Boca Raton offered a similar assessment. “This is taking an elbow and sticking in in the eye of the Arab world. And it doesn’t produce any kind of positive result,” said Winer, president of FAITH: the Foundation to Advance Interfaith Trust and Harmony, and past president of the National Council of Synagogues. “It doesn’t advance the cause of peace, which can only take place when the Israelis and their Arab neighbors sit down and negotiate things out.”

Here are excerpts of reactions in South Florida:

Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen:

“The president’s decision today is recognition of existing U.S. law that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the U.S. embassy should ultimately be located in the capital. 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. The fact is that Jerusalem – an ancient and holy city to all three monotheistic faiths – will remain the capital of the Jewish state in any iteration of a negotiated two-state solution. Today’s decision does not preclude our shared goal of two states for two peoples to be negotiated between the parties themselves. Now is the time for urgent progress towards the President’s stated objective of achieving a real and lasting peace.”

Both are Trump critics. Ros-Lehtinen is chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. Deutch is the top Democrat on the subcommittee.


“It is a sad time in our history. We have been knowing ever since 1967 that America is one-sided with Israel. This made it official. This made official that America can’t be a peace broker,” he said. “Everybody in the world wants the super power to be at least fair when it comes to peace.”


“The United States has long held that the final status of Jerusalem should be determined as part of an agreement negotiated between the State of Israel and the Palestinian leadership. The President’s announcement undercuts this position, as well as the role of the United States as an honest mediator of the conflict.

“This announcement puts the security of American embassies and consulates throughout the Arab world at risk. The United States should continue to support a two-state solution that provides for peace, security, and mutual recognition for both the Israeli and Palestinian people.”

Hastings is an outspoken critic of Trump.


“I don’t think the timing is right on it. Trump got nothing from the Israelis in exchange. Trump could have played this as ‘We’ll recognize Jerusalem as your capital if you halt settlement activity in the West Bank.’ Trump got absolutely nothing in return from the Israelis for this. … I fail to see what this accomplished other than to get people on the Arab side upset and make the United States not look like honest brokers.”

Wasserman Schultz:

“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. I strongly believe that we must continue to work toward a two state solution that achieves two states for two peoples. 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.”

Wasserman Schultz, a former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee is a Trump critic.


“What Trump is doing is grandstanding for his evangelical Christian base, and for the 20 percent or so of Jews who support him, and who support him because they believe what he is doing is best for Israel. I believe personally that this is a very bad move for the long-term peace in the Middle East. It’s counterproductive for doing what’s best for Israel.”

Wilfredo A. Ruiz, the Sunrise-based communications director for The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida: 

“What benefit does any American derive out of Trump’s decision? The president should be acting out of America’s interests first, [not] to do this kind of move when no other country in the planet has decided to move their embassy to Jerusalem. ...

“He [Trump] continues to improvise. He still thinks that he is campaigning because this is the only logical explanation of this, that he wants to play for that base. But he needs to act as an elected president who is acting for the best interest of the United States. He no longer needs to please his base. He needs to assume his role as commander in chief and president.”

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Palm Beach County:

“The president’s announcement today is consistent with current U.S. law and reaffirms what we already know: Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The U.S. must recommit to our long-standing goal of a negotiated solution that leads to two states for two people. Only direct negotiations between the parties will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.”

Frankel frequently criticizes Trump.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, D-Fla.:

“I commend President Trump for following U.S. law and recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel. … 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.”

Rubio was defeated by Trump in 2016 presidential primaries. He is usually a supporter of the president’s foreign policy.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.: 

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The U.S. embassy will remain in Tel Aviv for now and the United States should continue to do its part to help bring about a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians through a two-state solution.”

Nelson frequently criticizes Trump’s policies.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami-Dade County:

“Jerusalem is without question the capital of Israel and I commend the President’s decision to recognize it as such. Denying simple, obvious truths is not a strategy for peace. With this decision we are not only standing by our ally, but also recognizing the freedom of all major faiths to continue worshipping in Jerusalem.”

Curbelo is often critical of Trump.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami-Dade County:

“I am pleased by President Trump's bold decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is well past time that our embassy is moved to its rightful home. Though many may be upset with the decision, or even use this as an excuse to incite violence, we must remember that Jerusalem is the country’s true capital. I commend the administration for its resolute commitment to our allies.”

Diaz-Balart is more supportive of Trump than most of his South Florida colleagues.

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