President Joe Biden’s scheduled visit to an east Jerusalem hospital on Friday will boost the Palestinian Authority’s claim to that section of the city which is under Israeli sovereignty, six Republican representatives said in a letter they addressed to the White House.
“A visit would be viewed as a continued sign of continued support [for] the Palestinians in their illegitimate efforts to claim east Jerusalem,” the six representatives wrote.
The initiative to try and sway Biden not to make an unprecedented visit to the eastern part of the city was spearheaded by Rep. Beth Van Duyne of Texas.
It was signed by three other Texas Representatives; Randy Weber, Pete Sessions and Ronny Jackson. Representatives Bill Johnson of Ohio and W. Gregory Steube of Florida also signed the document.
Biden will be the first US president to visit an east Jerusalem location identified with the Palestinians and it is seen as a nod in the US acceptance of the Palestinian’s right to have their capital there.
Former US president Donald Trump also crossed the Green Line during his 2017 visit, but he went to the Jewish holy site of the Western Wall, in a move that preceded his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his relocation of the US Embassy to that city from Tel Aviv.
The United States Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital in 1995 when it passed the US Embassy Act.
The six Republicans recalled that Biden had supported that Act when he was a senator.
“Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state. Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem – including the East, which it occupied in the 1967 Middle East War – as its indivisible capital,” the representatives said.
They recalled that in October 168 House republicans had signed a letter opposing any US moves to reopen the east Jerusalem Consulate General that had served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians until Trump closed it in 2018.
Biden has promised to reopen that consulate but has yet to secure the needed permission from Israel. Friday’s visit is seen as a gesture in lieu of that move.
“Israel has a sovereign capital, and just like no other nation has another consulate on its territory, neither should Israel,” the representatives said.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon wrote in an open letter that such a visit would symbolize support for the PA’s efforts to divide Jerusalem.