President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the State Department told senators at his confirmation hearing that the incoming administration recognizes Jerusalem as the Capitol of Israel and said it would leave the US embassy in the contested holy city.
Asked if he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, Antony Blinken said, “yes.” And asked if the US embassy would remain in Jerusalem, Blinken again said, “yes.”
Both moves by the Trump administration were deeply controversial, as both Israelis and Palestinians claim the holy city as their capitol. The status of Jerusalem is such a thorny issue that international consensus was to leave discussion about it to the end of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Previous peace negotiations had included the idea that each side would claim a different part of the city as its capitol.
The Trump administration abandoned those internationally accepted parameters, stopped engaging with Palestinians, unilaterally moved its embassy to Jerusalem and recognized the city as Israel’s capitol.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Blinken indicated that he believes the Trump administration policies have pushed Israelis and Palestinians farther from a peace deal than they have been in decades. He stressed he believes that a “two-state solution, however distant it may appear, is still the best and probably the only way to truly assure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state and of course to give the Palestinians the state to which they are entitled.”
“The challenge, of course, is how to move forward on that at a time when … it seems more distant than it’s ever been, at least since Oslo,” Blinken said. Offering some praise for the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements the Trump administration brokered between Israel and Gulf countries, Blinken said he hopes those agreements create progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
“I hope that might also might create a greater sense of confidence and security in Israel as it considers its relationship with the Palestinians,” Blinken said, “because whether we like or not, whether they like or not, it’s not just going away.”