Senator Dean Heller Visits Jerusalem For U.S. Embassy Opening
The opening of the embassy also comes less than a week since the president pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act in 1995 but the embassy had remained in Tel Aviv. Senator Dean Heller, along with Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio reintroduced the legislation in early 2017 and President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December. The new embassy opened on Monday.
On Friday, Heller told us, "I'm looking forward to it. Obviously, what we're doing is moving the Embassy. What we're basically doing is righting a wrong this weekend and I'm thrilled to be back in Jerusalem to be a part of this move and to be part of this particular ceremony."
Heller says he has been working on this legislation for five to seven years. He will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish and Christian coalitions leading up to the event. The ceremony coincides with the 70th anniversary of Israel's declaration of independence.
"There's a lot of excitement behind this," the Republican said. "I'm looking forward to going over there with a couple of my colleagues in order to be a part of these ceremonies and to celebrate with everybody else."
Not everyone is happy about the move though. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Istanbul, where they protested President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital.
"I do know that some of the Arab nations take some concern with moving it over to Jerusalem but it is the rightful place for it," Heller said. "It may be controversial but it is not in America. It's not in Israel."
The senator's trip comes just one day after Israel attacked Iranian forces in Syria. It says it was a retaliation for Iran's rocket strikes from Syria, into the Golan Heights area of Israel.
"Israel does have the right to defend itself and it is doing so today," Heller said. "We won't be anywhere in that area during this visit. We will get down to the Gaza Strip, get down there and take a look at the fencing and some of the controversy that's going on down in that area."
Thousands of Palestinians are gathered along the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. The protests have lasted for six weeks because of a blockade that has been there for more than ten years that they say has made their poverty worse. Israeli's have responded with force, killing more than 40 and injuring hundreds. While some demonstrators are peaceful, some have thrown rocks and fire bombs.
The opening of the embassy also comes less than a week since the president pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal. Heller says that was the right move.
"The only thing this agreement did was guarantee the Iran would have nuclear weapons," Heller said. "Plan B, I think is pretty clear. Plan B is to make sure Iran does not have nuclear weapons."
Heller says he hopes the progress made with North Korea could eventually happen in the Middle East.
"Getting those three prisoners, American citizens back to the United States was an incredible feat," Heller said. "Something that the previous administration was not able to successfully have occur."
Heller is also optimistic that more progress will be made during the June meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.
"Don't think for a minute that I trust North Korea," Heller said. "That's not the case but I do have a lot of trust in the Secretary of State's Office and also the White House trying to get something done but I think it's a prelude to perhaps some real negotiations in the Middle East."