Republican presidential candidates and Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio shake hands at the end of the debate held by Fox News in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 28, 2015.
Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Trio of GOP senators unveil risky Jerusalem gambit

In 1995. Congress passed a law that empowered the United States to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, but it came with a catch: U.S. presidents could delay the move for security reasons.

And that’s precisely what every president has done since. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama each signed waivers, keeping the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. As CBS News reported, a trio of Republicans – Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Dean Heller – are pushing legislation that would remove what they consider a “loophole,” and force the State Department to move the embassy now.
The measure, the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act … would withhold “certain State Department funds until that relocation is complete.”

The bill says that the State Department would be able to spend no more than half of what Congress will approve for embassy security, construction and maintenance for fiscal 2017 until the secretary of state determines and reports to Congress that the U.S. embassy has relocated to Jerusalem and has officially opened.
Moving the embassy, which Donald Trump claims to be eager to do, poses all kinds of challenges. Because of Jerusalem’s unique significance – politically, historically, religiously – putting the U.S. embassy in the city would signal that the United States sees Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital, which as CBS’s report noted, would carry with it a series of “diplomatic and political repercussions.”

But just as striking as the potential consequences are the kind of incentives the Republican senators have in mind: move the embassy, the trio’s bill says, or they’ll cut funding for embassy security in half.

Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here: four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya, four years ago, in large part because of inadequate security at the U.S. outpost.

With that deadly attack still fresh in the minds of many, some Republican senators are ready to cut embassy security everywhere unless a symbolic goal is met?

If the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act moves forward with broad GOP support, the impact has the potential to be enormous.