Muslim and Jewish activist groups are demanding an apology from Los Angeles Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti over recent comments backing a Jerusalem-based U.S. Embassy in Israel.
A coalition led by the L.A. chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) penned a letter to Garcetti last week requesting he “retract” his support for relocating operations from Tel Aviv, where the embassy had been from 1966 until May 2018.
Garcetti, who describes himself as “half-Chicano and half-Jewish,” voiced his approval of the change during a trip to Israel earlier this month.
“I support the embassy being there,” Garcetti told the Los Angeles Times. “Israel shouldn’t be the only country in the world that can’t determine where its capital will be, but there is usually a process to these things rather than what seems like an overnight, one-sided, partisan move.”
In 2017, President Donald J. Trump broke with decades of U.S. foreign policy after recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and vowed to move the embassy there. The new location opened last year, infuriating Palestinians who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
“There is absolutely a space to be pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian,” Garcetti continued. “And if anybody thinks there will be resolution to this conflict, how can you not be pro-both?”
Garcetti’s remarks prompted a letter from leaders of several "interfaith groups" including CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush, who asked him to reconsider his stance and “stand against Trump’s reckless decision.”
The letter told Garcetti that moving the embassy to Jerusalem was a “dangerous and offensive action” and called on the mayor to “apologize” to constituents for supporting the switch. The coalition wrote: “We were distraught when hearing of this news … especially in the month of Ramadan.”
Partial transcript as follows:
We were deeply offended at your recent endorsement of the unilateral decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This place, what Palestinians call Al Quds, the Holy City, is sacred to Christians and Muslims alike, not just to Israeli Jews…
We strongly believe that the status of Jerusalem is a matter for negotiations between the government of Israel and representatives of the Palestinian people. The Trump Administration’s decision to move the US Embassy undercuts our government’s reputation and ability to act as a trusted broker for a revived peace process. It also supports the racist intentions of the Netanyahu government and its supporters who would ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people from their homes in Jerusalem.
The condemnation was co-signed by Friends of Sabeel, North America (FOSNA); Islamic Shura Council of Southern California; Arab American Civic Council; and the L.A. chapters of the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network (EPF PIN).
Garcetti issued a statement responding to the criticism.
“I recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he wrote. “And I have always recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the independent, fully sovereign Palestinian state that we all want to emerge from negotiations toward a two-state solution.”
“As I made clear in my comments last week, I disagree strongly with how the Trump administration made its decision. It was outside the scope of any talks, without balance or coordination.”
“But we cannot allow this president’s thoughtless partisanship to divide friends and take our eyes off what is most important, which is moving forward to peace,” he said. “We have to keep pressing for peace and a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the rightful capital of both nations.”
Garcetti spent five days in Israel leading a delegation from the U.S. Conference of Mayors. According to the L.A. Times, the trip aimed “to boost U.S.-Israel relations at the municipal level.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.