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New GOP legislation: Recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Senators Cruz, Heller and Rubio unveil legislation recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's official capital and moving the American Embassy there.

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Elad Benari,

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Jerusalem
Nati Shohat/Flash 90

Three Republican senators on Tuesday unveiled legislation that would recognize Jerusalem as Israel's official capital and move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The new legislation, entitled the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, was introduced by Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Dean Heller of Nevada and Marco Rubio of Florida.

“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, and that's where America's embassy belongs,” Rubio said in a statement Tuesday quoted by The Hill.

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

A statement from Heller said that some State Department funds would be withheld until the embassy was relocated.

The measure is in line with President-elect Donald Trump's support for moving the embassy to Jerusalem, something he repeatedly pledged to do during his election campaign.

His campaign manager Kellyanne Conway indicated last month that moving the embassy to Jerusalem "is a very big priority” for Trump, while media reports in Israel at the time indicated the transition team for Trump is already looking into possible locations in Jerusalem for the embassy.

American presidents from both parties have long called for Jerusalem's status to be resolved by negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as part of a larger peace deal. But there has been persistent congressional support for moving the U.S. Embassy, most notably in 1995, when Congress passed a similar measure.

The 1995 measure allowed the President to exercise a waiver delaying the move. That waiver must be renewed every six months, which U.S. presidents have repeatedly done, with President Barack Obama signing the latest waiver at the start of December.

“Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel,” Cruz said in a statement on Tuesday. “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.

"But it is finally time to cut through the double-speak and broken promises and do what Congress said we should do in 1995: formally move our embassy to the capital of our great ally Israel,” he added.