Some South Florida's #Resistance Democrats Support Trump on Jerusalem

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump's decision yesterday to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel pissed off the United Nations, the European Union, virtually all of America's allies, Palestinian people everywhere, and even the pope. Intelligence analysts are so worried about an upswell of violence that U.S. diplomats have been ordered to stay away from the city until further notice.

Trump's choice did not, however, seem to bother many of South Florida's major Democrats, some of whom style themselves as the so-called #Resistance to Trump's creeping, Big Mac-fueled brand of authoritarianism. So much for that.

Broward and Miami-Dade Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, arguably the most powerful Democrat in Florida not named Bill Nelson, has spent nearly every waking hour lobbing insults at Trump since he announced his candidacy. That didn't stop her from enthusiastically backing the foreign-policy decision of a man who allegedly eats four McDonald's sandwiches for dinner every night.

“My longstanding view is that Jerusalem is and will remain the undivided capital of Israel, and it should remain a city accessible to people of all faiths," Wasserman Schultz announced in a statement. "I strongly believe that we must continue to work toward a two-state solution that achieves two states for two peoples. We must work toward a day where the entire world recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that can be achieved through final status negotiations. I remain as committed as ever to safeguarding Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, at peace with its neighbors, with Jerusalem as its undisputed capital.”
Likewise, Palm Beach County Rep. Ted Deutch, who has long supported moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, didn't seem to think twice about whether he should reconsider siding with Trump when it comes to a matter of worldwide security.

"Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," he flatly announced in a joint statement with retiring Miami GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Both lawmakers serve together on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.
The incident mirrors Trump's last major foreign-policy flail in the Middle East earlier this year, when he fired rockets at Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad out of the blue and nearly set off a worldwide conflict. Wasserman Schultz, Deutch, Sen. Bill Nelson, and other Florida Democrats came to Trump's defense, in an apparent showing that you can be a Big Gulp-chugging maniac and still earn congressional support if you enjoy firing rockets at the Middle East.

This same crowd of Democrats, including Wasserman Schultz and Nelson, are sponsoring legislation to make boycotting Israeli companies — as part of the so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The American Civil Liberties Union has called the bill unconstitutional.

The United States has backed most of Israel's decisions since the nation declared independence in 1948. But moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem has long been seen as a "third rail" that even hard-right Republicans in the past have refused to touch. Both Israelis and Palestinians see Jerusalem as the rightful capital of their respective states, and sharing the city has been pitched for decades as a central component of the so-called two-state solution. The Israeli government has shifted to the extreme right in the past decade and has been repeatedly criticized for illegally building settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Human Rights Watch says Israel holds the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza through "repression, institutionalized discrimination, and systematic abuses of the Palestinian population’s rights." Israelis counter and claim, in some cases rightfully, that opposition to the country stems from anti-Semitism and not from legitimate human-rights concerns. Politicians, including Deutch and Sen. Marco Rubio, maintain that the European Union's and United Nations' complaints about Israel's human-rights record are, in reality, examples of anti-Israel bias.

But moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem has long been seen as a sign that the United States is fully backing Israel and its hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the concerns of the Palestinian people, who say they're trapped in an apartheid state. If the U.S. slams the door on peaceful negotiations, many fear violence will erupt.

Congress passed a measure in 1995 to formally move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, but because it's a near-certainty that changing cities would cause sectarian violence, every president since Bill Clinton has passed on making the switch. Time will tell whether Trump officially moves the embassy — his comments yesterday went farther than any president before him, but he still kicked the can down the road and signed the same waiver that each of his predecessors did.

Predictably, the Florida GOP electorate is giddy at the news. Rubio, who sponsored a bill under the Obama administration to move the embassy to Jerusalem, published a statement supporting Trump. Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who's running a contentious reelection campaign, also blasted out his support.
Contrast those statements with those of the British government, which spent the day on Twitter repeatedly castigating the United States in Arabic.

The British government "opposes the US decision to move the Embassy," the British Foreign Office wrote yesterday, adding that the move "does not help the chances for peace in the region," which "should be eventually shared capital of Jerusalem for Israeli and Palestinian States."
The European Commission isn't exactly thrilled either:
Fort Lauderdale Rep. Alcee Hastings appears to be the only Florida Democrat who even bothered to criticize the decision:
The United States has long held that the final status of Jerusalem should be determined as part of an agreement negotiated between the State of Israel and the Palestinian leadership. The President’s announcement undercuts this position, as well as the role of the United States as an honest mediator of the conflict.

This announcement puts the security of American embassies and consulates throughout the Arab world at risk. The United States should continue to support a two-state solution that provides for peace, security, and mutual recognition for both the Israeli and Palestinian people.

In some ways, it's easy to see why Wasserman Schultz and Deutch immediately sprang to Trump's defense, in that both lawmakers represent heavily Jewish districts that lean Democratic without tilting too far to the left. But there's a major difference between legitimately supporting Israel and bullheadedly setting off a potential wave of violence across the Middle East and pissing off all of our allies. Florida's Democrats aren't resisting when they're needed most.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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