Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. embassy in Israel would remain in Jerusalem if he’s elected, even as he called President Donald Trump’s decision to move the diplomatic base from Tel Aviv “short-sighted and frivolous.”
Biden, speaking during a virtual fundraiser, suggested relocating the embassy again would not help the stagnant peace process between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority that have fought for generations over how to divide land and power, especially Jerusalem. Trump’s decision effectively ratified the Israeli government’s claim on the disputed capital that is a holy city for Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Yet rather than reversing Trump, Biden told donors he’d reopen a U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem to engage Palestinian leaders in talks about a “two-state solution” that has long been the official U.S. posture toward Israel and the Palestinians.
“I’ve been a proud supporter of a secure, democratic Jewish state of Israel my entire life,” Biden said Tuesday. But, he added: “My administration will urge both sides to take steps to keep the prospect of a two-state solution alive.”
Biden’s remarks Wednesday were among the most detailed explanations of the issue he has given during the 2020 campaign.
Congress authorized the embassy move to Jerusalem in 1995 – with Biden voting for the measure as a Delaware senator – but a succession of presidents from both major parties delayed the shift, setting conditions as part of ongoing peace negotiations.
Biden said Trump gave away that leverage.
“Moving the embassy when we did without the conditions having been met was short-sighted and frivolous,” the former vice president said. “It should have happened in the context of a larger deal to help us achieve important concessions for peace in the process.”
Trump ostensibly backs a two-state solution. But his 2018 decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv reflected his alignment with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an unapologetic hardliner in advancing Jewish claims to Jerusalem and surrounding regions.