U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Dianne Feinstein appear to have shifted their positions between symbolic gestures in favor of Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Israel and the reality of that decision taken this week by President Donald Trump.
Sanders, the 2016 Democratic rival for the presidential candidacy to Hillary Clinton, and Feinstein, the senior senator from California, separately and publicly warned Trump against taking the step no other country has taken and that has been against U.S. policy almost since the creation of Israel in 1947.
However, on June 5, 2017, both were among 90 senators who voted in favor of Senate Resolution 176, which “reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104–45)”, which said that Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital and the US embassy should be moved to Jerusalem.
No U.S. president has accepted that vote — seen as largely symbolic — given the diplomatic and practical risks. The 2017 vote called on the recognition to be incorporated in “United States law, and calls upon the President and all United States officials to abide by its provisions”. Resolution 176 was voted on 90-0.
Trump went ahead and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Sanders tweeted, “There’s a reason why all past US administrations have not made this move, and why leaders around the world have warned Trump against it: It would undermine the prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and severely, perhaps irreparably, damage our ability to broker it.”
On December 1, Feinstein sent a letter to the president, saying that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would “spark violence, further alienate the United States, and undermine the prospects of a two-state solution.”, and said today that the decision “rejects decades of bipartisan policy and undermines our standing with Palestinians and regional partners”.
The original 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act was also supported in 1995 by Senator Feinstein, but opposed by then-congressman Sanders.
Read the WikiTribune Explainer on why Jerusalem matters so much.