Despite supporting the idea of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for over three decades, former vice president and 2020 hopeful Joe Biden abandoned his previous stance on the issue and said he wouldn’t have made the move “in the first place.”
In an interview with PBS News Hour on Friday, Biden said that although he would not reverse President Trump’s decision to move the embassy at this point, he said: “I wouldn’t have done it in the first place.”
A person close to Biden’s campaign told Fox News on Thursday that Biden’s comments are “not out of synch with the position that he’s had” but rather are a criticism of the way Trump handled the decision, which drew the ire of Palestinians who also stake claim to the land.
“His objection was not to the move but to the way it was done. It should have been made in the context of a larger deal that achieved important concessions for the peace process,” the source told Fox News.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden said in a statement to Axios that “Vice President Biden would not move the American embassy back to Tel Aviv, but he would re-open our consulate in East Jerusalem to engage the Palestinians.”
In 2018, Trump made good on a main campaign promise to appease his conservative and evangelical base by formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the embassy to the city.
Biden backed numerous pieces of legislation passed by the Senate during his tenure as a representative from Deleware that supported both moving the embassy and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel– a law that was waived by Trump’s predecessors.
“Joe Biden spent literally decades promising to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, only to fail when he had eight years as vice president to do it. President Trump made a similar promise, but unlike Joe Biden, he actually stuck to his word and got it done,” Trump campaign national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement to Fox News on Thursday.
During former President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008, Biden said “it’s been my position for years,” to have Jerusalem recognized as the undivided capital city of Israel.
“Jerusalem must be the capital of Israel. Whatever decision the Israelis make, that’s a decision we’ll support,” Biden said at the time.
“I think we should move the embassy, but you don’t have a [Israeli] government asking us to move the embassy there. Let them make the judgment,” he added.
Biden’s flip flop on the issue marks yet another attempt by the candidate to align himself with left-leaning voters by reversing his previously held stances, which has drawn the ire of other Democratic contenders vying for the nomination.
Biden, who has remained in the lead according to most national polls but is neck and neck with two other candidates– Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.– came under fire for changing his decades-long position on the Hyde Amendment in June.
His 2020 Democratic rivals criticized Biden’s previous support as a senator for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds to subsidize abortions except for cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is endangered — a notion some of his campaign rivals fear has a disproportionate impact on minority communities.
Biden reversed his stance on the controversial piece of legislation at a campaign rally, saying he “can no longer support an amendment that makes” a woman’s right to an abortion “dependent on someone’s ZIP code.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.