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Garcetti said he backs U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Now religious groups want an apology

Garcetti said he backs U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Now religious groups want an apology
Mayor Eric Garcetti, speaking at a news conference in Los Angeles this month, has drawn criticism from L.A. religious groups for supporting the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

A year after the Trump administration moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti waded into the still simmering political controversy, drawing criticism from L.A. religious groups.

“I support the embassy being here,” Garcetti told The Times during his trip to Israel last week with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “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.”

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In response, local offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network, among others on the political left on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called on Garcetti to retract his statement of support. The groups also sent the mayor a letter on Sunday.

Estee Chandler, founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, said in a statement that the mayor’s “endorsement of the illegal move to consolidate Israeli annexation of land furthers the endangering of the lives of both Palestinians and Jewish Israelis on the ground.”

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called it “highly disturbing” that Garcetti would declare support for the Trump administration’s “reckless decision.”

In 2017, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and vowed to move the U.S. Embassy there. That delighted some Israelis but angered Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their eventual independent state. Some U.S. allies across Europe and the Arab world also criticized the move.

It’s unclear how Garcetti, who is Jewish, came to his opinion about the embassy.

Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A., said he was puzzled. Supporting both a two-state solution and moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a contradiction, he said.

“I don’t know how this is defensible for him at the same time he calls himself as progressive,” Regalado said. “He basically finds himself on the side of the Trump administration. What audience he was playing to, I just don’t get it.”

Dan Schnur, a professor of political communications at UC Berkeley and the former Los Angeles director for the American Jewish Committee, said Garcetti’s position reflects what had been Democratic orthodoxy before Trump's presidency.

“He’s assuming that having the embassy in Jerusalem will become mainstream Democratic opinion again after Trump has left office and he’s probably right,” Schnur said. “Very few mainstream Democratic politicians are going to support Trump on the move of the embassy, but even fewer are going to call for the embassy to be moved back to Tel Aviv once Trump is gone.”

Responding to the criticism, Garcetti reiterated that he is “pro-Palestine and pro-Israel.”

“I recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. 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 true two-state solution,” he said. “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.”

His trip to Israel was paid for by the American Jewish Committee. Now back in Los Angeles, the mayor was scheduled to host a Ramadan iftar — the daily fast-breaking dinner — Monday evening at City Hall.

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