Joe Biden, the presumptive United States Democratic presidential nominee, said on Wednesday that if he was elected, he would keep the US embassy in Israel in Jerusalem even though he does not agree with the context in which US President Donald Trump moved it there from Tel Aviv.
“It should not have been moved,” the former vice president said in response to a question asked during a virtual fundraiser with supporters in the Boston, Massachusetts area.
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“The move shouldn’t have happened in the context as it did, it should happen in the context of a larger deal to help us achieve important concessions for peace in the process,” Biden added.
Biden’s remarks on Wednesday were among the most detailed explanations of the issue he has given during the 2020 campaign.
Congress authorised the embassy move to Jerusalem in 1995 – with Biden voting for the measure as a Delaware senator – but a succession of presidents from both major parties delayed the shift, setting conditions as part of ongoing peace negotiations.
Biden said Trump gave away that leverage.
“Moving the embassy when we did without the conditions having been met was short-sighted and frivolous,” the former vice president said. “But now that is done, I would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv.”
Biden also reportedly said he would reopen the US consulate in occupied East Jerusalem “to engage the Palestinians”.
Trump was scrutised worldwide when he recognised Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.
Since then, Trump, whose evangelical Christian support base is staunchly pro-Israel, has granted a wish list to Israel.
His so-called Middle East plan would let Israel annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank – which much of the rest of the world considers illegal.
The Palestinians would be granted a sovereign but demilitarised entity along with promises of major investment. The Palestinian state’s capital would be on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the holy city that would remain fully under Israeli sovereignty.
Palestinians have flatly rejected the Trump proposal.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in remarks that aired last week that his administration would regard agreements with Israel and the US “completely cancelled” if Israel annexes land in the occupied West Bank.
Biden foreign policy adviser Tony Blinken, who joined a webinar of a prominent Jewish group, reportedly said that Biden has been “on the record several times” saying that “unilateral steps taken by either side that make the prospect of a negotiated two-state outcome less likely is something he opposes, and that includes annexation.”